Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
Judge a nation by how it treats its veterans.
We cross the road when we see them shuffling towards us, head thrown slightly forward, arms swaying loosely at their side. Perhaps a dirty bucket hat covering what remains of a greasy bob, faded jeans baggier than currently fashionable. For these are the brave souls who lived through the last indie-dance crossover, still haunted by flashbacks of The Soup Dragons and Candy Flip and a time when Bobby Gillespie was lauded as Scotland's answer to George Clinton. We may mock them now, but they are the men and women who did their duty on the student dancefloor and they deserve our pity, not our scorn.
So raise an eyebrow at indiedom's latest (modern) romance with all things electro. As the indifferent Franz Ferdinand album proved, claims of 'going dance' should always be taken with a pinch of the old salt 'n' pepa and It's Blitz is barely the frontal assault on the drawbridge of Telecaster rock the name promises. The doors of Studio 53 may be open but it takes more than a blippy 80s drum machine to impress the cognoscenti, sister.
Opener 'Zero' lays out a reasonable stall, blooming into an enjoyable few minutes of Hi-NRG, a bit like what U2 did with 'Lemon' during those early crossover skirmishes. The fairground organ that opens 'Heads Will Roll' also sounds promising, but the wheels immediately come off this soul train. Like a catfight at a tranny disco the truth is soon cruelly exposed and by most measures, this is barely a YYY track. Karen O may be in the house, but it bears all the hallmarks of a remix, as if farmed out to the latest cat on the Brooklyn DJ circuit. It's adonyne and generic - the kind of thing normally reserved for CD singles when there's nothing left in the panty drawer marked 'b-side'.
Frustratingly, we're back on higher ground with the gentler electro-pop of 'Soft Shock'. Taking a leaf from the Santogold skool of NY-Wave, it's everything the revisioning could be (cool, smart) - and it's immediately derailed by the unfortunate military drums and celtic melody of 'Skeleton'. It's your worst Runrig nightmare made real. Cold sweat time. It's the musical equivalent of the morning barrage at Ypres and this footsoldier will swap going over the top for trench foot any time. That white feather boa has my name on it.
'Dull Life' is the album's singular nod to rocking out and while the cheesily sinister intro to 'Dragon Queen' promises early 80s straight-to-video cop action, the reality is the same lame white funk that saw CSS sink faster than a Buick in the Hudson. By now time is running out but they save the best to almost the end. 'Hysteric', with its pretty refrain ("Flow sweetly / Hang heavy / You suddenly complete me") is another low-key number, Van Halen synths notwithstanding and ideal last dance fodder. Over previous albums, YYYs have shown an uncanny knack of creating the sweetest little numbers (as with 'Dudley' on the sadly overlooked Show Your Bones) alongside their punkier side, but here they're the only real highlight.
As with any war the lessons learned are too quickly forgotten. A new generation thinks it won't make the same mistakes as its forebears, but it almost always does. The early 90s were full of artists putting half-baked dance beats under their normal output and the results were almost always just that: half-baked. Pale imitations of the genre they sought to ape. If you were going to bet on any of the recent bands making the successful crossover, YYYs were almost surefire. Moreso than male-fronted acts YYYs had, in Karen O's voice, the weapon that would let them jump upon the bandwagon on which female artists currently have an edge - Santogold, La Roux, Ladyhawke - but It's Blitz is the sound of a band floundering, uncertain where its loyalties lie.
Surrender? Not yet. But they better have a Plan B back in the YYY bunker.