What happens when a buzz band reach middle age? It has been nearly eight years since New York City’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs released their blistering 13-minute, self-titled, debut EP and five since they reached mainstream success with indie-kid love ballad “Maps.” So naturally, their third full-length and first in three years arrives laden with expectations. Their NYC cohorts the Strokes and Interpol released their third albums in 2006 and 2007, respectively, and though the response from fans and critics for both was largely positive, sales and general, er, “buzz,” were way down. If you’re Nick Zinner, Brian Chase or the ever-outré Karen O, the pressure’s on.
The trio’s response is It’s Blitz! It starts with “Zero,” an indelibly catchy, four-and-a-half-minute explosion that’s the most vital and exciting the band have ever sounded, delivering on the promise of past dance-y tunes such as “Cheated Hearts” while expanding their musical bag of tricks. It’s the kind of song that makes you want to commit some sort of nefarious criminal act, just so you can crank the tune in your car during the ensuing high-speed chase. The fun continues with “Heads Will Roll,” which is even more synth-poppy—a far cry from the bare-bones garage rock that originally got them noticed. They can’t keep that pace up forever (nor should they), but it’s still a little bit of a letdown when you get to a downer like “Skeletons,” the fourth track on the record. Things pick right back up with the swinging (don’t believe the title!) “Dull Life” and the feeling lasts all the way to the disco-esque “Dragon Queen.”
Watching an act like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs realize their potential is the closest thing childless music nerds may have to watching a kid grow up, and though it may not be nearly as enriching, it’s satisfying nonetheless.
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