I was sitting in the back of McShane’s car going to see Mission of Burma or going to band prac. I can’t remember which. After bashing Rolling Stone together, Mike asked me if I could write for them, would I? I said I couldn’t write for Rolling Stone because I was too angry not to mention having little abilities as a proper journalist, but now I’m rethinking it. Fuck that shit! I’ve got a keyboard and if that fails, I’ve got pencils and paper. I can write! Or at least out of the lack, I’ll make my song.
Mike: But what if they WOULD publish your stuff? Would you do it?
Me: Fuck yea. I’d love to have a column. I’d call it FUCKO and I’d rant about all the shit that pisses me off. I’d do it under the disguise of albums reviews for the week and I won’t pull any of that clever antiquing bullshit like David Fricke
Now why would anyone write a blog just to get pissed off? Well, 99% of my posts have been positive on this site. Writing about music I like rather than bashing music that has failed me or the human race. It’s pathetic to have a blog just to get angry about stupid shit like the Grammys or Rolling Stone. Unfortunately, that 1% is what killed Jay Reatard, sorry Reatard fans but I stand by my review of Watch Me Fall. So now, I’m going to expand that 1% into something more edible, like 5% or maybe a solid 7. I think the negative should complement the positive and so on and so forth. This is a shitty world, let’s not hide behind Volcano Suns reissues. It’s good to listen to what you presuppose you hate. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up liking some of it.
So I spent today listening to an album that made every top ten list of any publication that would want to be called cool: It’s Blitz by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
I thought this was a garage rock band. This is not what I expected. And based on a lot of reviews, most people seemed surprised as well. They dropped all guitars for a kindergarten Nine Inch Nails sound. While I admire breaking your own mold, these songs are even less interesting than when they had guitars. The beats are formulaic dance beats that do nothing to improve the song it’s added to. There’s not even an attempt to change them into something worthwhile and interesting. Since I know practically nothing about this, let’s talk about something that I know even less about and bugged me throughout the album: Karen O’s singing.
I don’t believe her.
Off with your head
Dance ’til you’re dead
Heads will roll
On the floor
That’s the way I judge singers. I’m no expert on singing and tone and all that, I just read lyrics and listen to the person singing it and if they truly mean it, regardless of what it’s about, that’s good singing. The above lyrics from “Heads Will Roll” are pretty good. It fits with the theme of this album (at least for the louder songs), which I believe is DANCE AND LOOK COOL rather than ROCK OUT AND LOOK COOL of previous efforts. At least on “Zero,” the opening track, I believe her. She’s stuck up. I can hear her holier-than-thou tone when she sings
What’s your name?
No one’s gonna ask you
Better find out where they want you to go
I can hear her saying that exact thing at a party to someone who doesn’t have as cool a haircut as her. Then she laughs hysterically and starts talking about how much she loves New Order more than Joy Division while nursing a Red Stripe. At least I believe her. OK, let’s not get mean.
Being unimpressed with the machine-made dance songs (there are more: “Shame and Fortune” adds guitars but still fails when the overused siren synth takes over, “Dragon Queen” is a retarded Wu-Tang beat that only makes me want to listen to GZA instead of Karen O whispering and clapping), for this album to make everyone’s top ten list, the album must succeed on the softer songs. Critics have argued the soft Yeah Yeah Yeah’s songs are the best the band has ever composed. One is track 4, “Skeleton.” Karen O sounds like a liar. She’s singing about love and her carefully conceived pauses and inflections for the words “Spin the sky Ske le ton me” ruin any chance of me buying into this. The Celtic tune at the end is laughable. An album that already sounds like more machine than man becomes laughable. While masters like Trent Reznor and newbies like Death From Above 1979 give life to their machines, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s bring us back to the hollow synth mainstream of the 80s. And it’s unfortunate because the simple words “Skeleton Me” might be the best lyrics on the album.
“Runaway” may be the only song on the album worth saving, and only the first half is genuine. She sounds like she may have a soul, but then the song loses me when she once again aims for style over substance. The strings at the end don’t succeed in turning this “album turning point” into anything epic. Rather, they reveal to us how hollow the synth and restrained yelping actually are.
I could have supposed a few reasons why I wouldn’t like this album before ever listening to it, but never did I think it would be Karen O’s intensity. For all my hatred, I thought she was energetic and soulful, just misguided. This is not the case on It’s Blitz. I switched over to the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack to see if maybe everything she does lately is as empty as this. It’s not. I hated most of the music while watching the film, but listening to it now, there are a lot of good songs. “Hideaway” is a great song. I believe her. She sings like she’s not carefully manipulating every inflection. There are no intentional awkward pauses in her speech. There’s nothing premeditated in her style. The fun songs are fun. Her yelping is honest and she doesn’t have to sing about dancing to imagine her doing so.
The opening song to the movie, “Igloo,” has more feeling than the It’s Blitz soft songs and she doesn’t even sing any lyrics, she just hums. Listening in comparison, the Karen O and the Kids soundtrack is great. It’s inventive. It’s almost untraceable. It sounds like music that this generation should be making in the 21st Century instead of some manipulated retro bullshit with less soul than James Brown’s dead finger.
I’m worried about us. If this is genuinely good music, who’s to say in 10 years the “new” sound from the underground will be Nu-Metal redu. I’m worried about critics and their souls. I’m worried about children and their hearts. I don’t blame the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, just fucking you, you stupid motherfuckers.