Since their 2003 debut album Fever to Tell, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been carving out a formidable – albeit niche – position within the art-punk rock canon, largely propelled by the powerfully magnetic presence of lead singer Karen O; surely the most credible female figure in rock, Alison Mosshart aside. Up until now, their greatest strength (thanks to O) has always been live performance, an endeavour at which they remain unrivalled by a wide margin.
It’s Blitz! takes a new direction. It isn’t necessarily a better album than Fever to Tell, or 2006’s Show Your Bones, but it’s certainly more… studio-y. Their previous output succeeded not only thanks to superbly put together riffs and vocals, but also in its ability to suggest something else; some untold potential that couldn’t be captured on a recording: you knew however great it sounded, it would always be way greater in a dingy 300-capacity venue.
Opening track Zero contains all of the frenetic energy one might expect from a Yeah Yeah Yeahs record, but the tempo and aesthetic qualities of the album gradually morph into less familiar ones. The punk feel has been eschewed in favour of a more disco-esque electro one – there are hints of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Blondie’s Heart of Glass, and frequent collaborator of Karen O, Squeak E. Clean, which is all very well, except that it leaves a distinct deficit of aforementioned untold potential – and it’s not clear one way or the other whether the trade-off has been a worthwhile one.
The undeniable highpoint of the album – Heads Will Roll – comes rather early on, and the anthem-y, Arcade Fire-esque nonsense of both Runaway and the intro to Skeleton is mildly irritating, but there is still enough of the angry New York spirit that has come to typify O’s performances for It’s Blitz! to feel worthy of being a Yeah Yeah Yeahs album.