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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Yeah, it’s a decent third album

Published: April 3, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

One of the most recognizable female lead singers in the past few years, at least in alt-rock circles, has been Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose ferocious bite and live show to match have provided much of the band’s propulsive force since the release of “Fever to Tell,” their debut album.

That same presence was somewhat lacking in their sophomore slump album “Show Your Bones” but has thankfully returned in their latest, “It’s Blitz!” It’s simply unfortunate that the band gets somewhat caught up in the need to progress, and though it’s an enjoyable album, it’s less forward momentum than lateral.

Karen O is somewhat more restrained here, and there’s not the same reckless abandon that say, “Date With The Night” showed. Nonetheless, she does an impressive job of shaping her tone to the band’s new sonic palette.

That new palette? It’s a lot more electronic; fans will be somewhat surprised by the inclusion of synths. Though it’s different, the compositions retain similar features. It’s certainly not the Yeah Yeah Yeahs going dance pop, with a few exceptions. There is, however, the sort of electro sensibility that backs “Soft Shock” which uses synths to a soothing effect. It’s a bit jarring at first, but there’s a gorgeous tension between the smooth backing and Karen’s voice, which, even when tamed into delicate “oohs,” stands apart.

There are a few quiet moments, of which the stripped-down “Skeletons” is possibly the best. Karen O still can’t best “Maps” for sheer emotional power, but there’s almost a standard-esque element to her delivery that makes it quite an affecting piece. Her reserved take on, “Love, don’t go/Love, don’t cry/Skeleton me” progresses gorgeously, imbuing the simplest lyrics with far more meaning than they’d ever have on the page.

“Dull Life” is modern rock by numbers, with the instrumentation sounding just like any other post-2000 rock band. Furthermore, the track follows a “Fever to Tell” blueprint: lyrics, yelping chorus, followed by instrumental breakdown and then the return of Karen O’s voice to finish it off.

There’s some actual dancing to be done, too, especially to songs like “Dragon Queen.” The underlying beats do make the album quite catchy; it’s an enjoyable listen for that reason alone.

The album artwork is instantly iconic; Karen O’s manicured hand crushing an egg with the yolk flying out. It’s an expression of controlled blasts, much like the album, and appropriately is a much more focused image than the one used for “Fever to Tell.”

It’s clear that there’s far more artistry and consideration given to these songs, which sound far more constrained and composed, than the more dashed-off feel of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ earlier work. There’s a definite difference in this album The same ideas present in the past two LPs are much more refined here. However, there aren’t a lot of new ideas. This is a refinement and an evolution, but not a radical shift.