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Yeah Yeah Yeahs experiment with synth-pop on latest album

Maija Gustin | Monday, March 23, 2009

“It’s Blitz!”, the third studio album from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, shows the trio experimenting with their sound. Known for soaring vocals and screaming guitars, Yeah Yeah Yeahs move towards a more synth-heavy pop sound in their latest release.

“Zero” sounds like typical Yeah Yeah Yeahs fare, but rather than wailing over screaming guitars, singer Karen O is wailing over synths and a heavy drumbeat. It’s energetic and, although different, the synth sounds totally unique to the group.

In “Soft Shock,” O departs from her typical hard-edged scream-singing for a softer ballad number. That is to say, a ballad for Yeah Yeah Yeahs. This song is again backed by some synths, but it keeps the melodic intensity of any of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ best guitar-driven songs.

“Dull Life” is the catchiest song on the album. It’s more of a traditional Yeah Yeah Yeahs sound with great guitar-drum interplay and Karen O doing her typical thing. Still, it’s a great addition to the album. “Shame and Fortune” is done in the same way. A bit of old Yeah Yeah Yeahs mixed in with some new. They both fit perfectly with the sound of the other songs without sticking to the same formula.

“Runaway” is a great ballad-esque number featuring some awesome guitars, piano, and string instruments. It’s both beautiful and epic, and it definitely shows off Karen O’s unique voice. “Little Shadow” is another nice ballad that features O at her softest as a singer and a cool organ accompaniment.

If you have the cash for the “It’s Blitz! (Deluxe Edition),” a whole extra $3, there are some gems to be found. The deluxe edition comes with acoustic versions of “Soft Shock,” “Skeletons,” “Hysteric” and “Little Shadow.” “Soft Shock” is stunning as an acoustic number. Karen O’s voice shines, and she really lets the sentiments of the song come out. It is well worth the price. “Hysteric” and “Little Shadow” also make great acoustic songs with some beautiful string parts.

Many people have called this album a disco-infused rock album, which might be a bit of a stretch – synthesizers do not equal disco. But Yeah Yeah Yeahs have certainly designed an album more suitable to dancing than their typical releases. They have always been high-energy, but “It’s Blitz!” combines that energy with an upbeat and more pop-rock sound.

“It’s Blitz!” may not be Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ best album to date, but it’s a successful departure from their typical sound. Their traditional formula has always been blazing guitars, heavy drums, and some great work by Karen O. Her fantastic voice is still there, and drummer Brian Chase never lets up with his intensity. The greatest change is Nick Zimmer stepping away from his guitar to add some synth-sound to the album.

It’s a big change of material for the New York City-based trio. However, they handle their new sound with the same amount of tact and creativity they’ve always put into their work.

It proves to be a solid experiment in the band’s musical abilities, but fans may miss their old sound.