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Disc of the week

Chopper rock and a whole lot more Add to ...

It's Blitz!

  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Interscope/Universal

The one time I spoke with Chrissie Hynde, she told me that all she ever wanted to do was to make motorcycle outlaw songs. She said it somewhat wistfully, as if it had turned out to be harder than she thought to stay on that bike.

That conversation came to mind when I first heard Zero , the lead-off single from the latest album by New York's Yeah Yeah Yeahs. "Get your leather on," sings Karen O, sounding as if she's ready to hop on behind as you tear down the highway to a jack-hammer rhythm on keyboards and a loping disco beat.

More to the point, she sounds a lot like Chrissie H, growling, purring and belting by turns, seeming sexy, rebellious and expensive all at once. Every day we find new ways to get back to what old rockers did before.

But there's a lot more to this album than Pretender pretension. By the time you've heard the whole thing, it's really not clear what kind of band this is any more, and I mean that in a good way.

A few songs drive toward some kind of ideal outer limit, beyond the tiresome constraints of daily life. "Dance till you're dead," KO urges in Heads Will Roll , another disco-rock number that soon glides several miles above street level.

Other items have the directness of a folk song or lullaby. Skeletons is neither rock nor dance music, and KO's naive girl-like vocals daub at the angular melody as if she were doing finger-painting by other means.

Runaway 's piano-vocal opening and general melodic style wouldn't be out of place on an indie-roots album. The massive orchestral buildup is worlds away from the reductive sound of Shame and Fortune , though even this new-wave floor-shaker has many subtle variations in tone and density. And then there's Dragon Queen , a shiny-cool song that's crying out to be part of the soundtrack for a druggy Eurotrash vampire movie.

The band's lyrics are mostly signals or symptoms of feeling, with not much more semantic charge than KO's "oh-oh-ohs" in Heads Will Roll . The burden of meaning lies mainly on the music, which in some songs (such as Dull Life ) converts her voice into a quasi-instrumental colour to support a zigzag guitar melody. The only thing missing from the album is the environment of a live concert. I'm betting these songs sound even better in the flesh.

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