It’s a blitz with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
By Andy Argyrakis
From the pages of Hear/Say Magazine
Those who’ve followed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs since its New York punk origins in 2000 are sure to be thrown for a slight loop on the band’s third long player It’s Blitz! (Interscope). Sure, there’s the sassy yet sultry vocals of Karen O wrapped around the snarling rhythm section of guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase, who continue to pound out a series of grimy garage rock rebellion. But there’s also an unexpected dance beat and new found pop sensibility that permeates the project, though thankfully never at the expense of the band’s endearing identity.
“Mostly it’s just because we wanted to do something new and it felt fresh and exciting for us,” explains Zinner, phoning in from Los Angeles. “We recorded an EP two years ago [Is Is], which was kind of a return to the sounds on our first [self-titled] EP, but after that, we kind of felt we could comfortably close the chapter for the time being and really see what else we could do. It sort of sounds cliché, but we’re not really interested in repeating ourselves. Fundamentally the core aesthetics of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are still there, but there’s a different approach to production and the overall sound- basically some keyboards and some guitars that sound like keyboards.”
Naming the record It’s Blitz! was indirectly related to that stylistic switch up, but also the fact that the group remains anchored in rough-necked riffs and the front woman’s rugged delivery. “The word ‘blitz’ popped into Karen’s mind, which seemed to summarize a lot of the feeling behind the record,” continues Zinner. “On one hand, it implies sort of a frenzied energy and it’s also a blissfully uplifting quality. It’s also a little Ramones nod, given our New York City roots.”
Outside of tipping its hat towards those punk icons, there’s a distinctly old school ethos to the culture surrounding the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The album cover is clearly inspired by the bi-gone era of artwork being an integral component of the package, as brilliantly illustrated by an egg being cracked in mid-air and its contents violently exploding in multiple directions.
“We’re from that dying generation that still believes in the album as a whole and the album cover,” says the guitar slinger. “There have actually been museum shows on album covers because it really is an art form, but it’s sad to see that reduced to barely anything at all…In the cracking of the egg, you’re making something beautiful and new, but at the same time, it’s grotesque as well. It’s really bold and also something we wanted to translate in the direction of the band and this record.”
Thus far, many critics and bloggers have agreed that It’s Blitz! will have tremendous impact on the ages to come, though much of the press came before the album was publicly available as the result of an online leak. Given Zinner’s commitment to the artwork, he admits the band wasn’t exactly thrilled with the security breach, but the trio’s does see a glimmer of hope.
“It’s important not to lose sight of the primary reason why you spend so much time making records, and in our case, the work it takes for a label to get it out,” he reflects. “Having the record leak and people write about it and react in a positive way in literally an hour is the good side of it all, but on the downside, it was frustrating because it throws the whole schedule off and takes away all the anticipation we were trying to build.”
But at this stage of the established act’s career, there’s still plenty of attention coming towards the collection. In addition to loads of airplay for the lead single “Zero,” many of the group’s club dates have sold out so fast that promoters are moving the concert locations to larger venues. Add in constant celebrity attention towards Karen O, and there’s plenty to be excited about, even if the threesome is barely cognizant of the adoration going on around them.
“We don’t really think about that sort of thing,” confirms Zinner. “It really just depends on where you are and choose to go. You can go to restaurants in L.A. where the paparazzi are outside and hang out in record stores hoping to get recognized, but that’s not really our thing. It’s easier to just go down the street where people don’t know you or don’t care.”
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