Perhaps a band can play only so many beer-drenched live shows and record so many frenetic freak-outs before its members start thinking that an album of midtempo ballads isn’t a half-bad idea. How else to explain the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ uncharacteristically chilled-out after-party of a third album? Prerelease interviews set off a rash of speculation that guitarist Nick Zinner would be putting aside his ax altogether this time around in favor of ambient synth work. Though that turns out to be a bit of an exaggeration?guitars are present somewhere in the mix on at least half of these tunes, including one vintage Yeah Yeah Yeahs basement riot (”Shame and Fortune”) — it’s certainly true that Karen O spends most of It’s Blitz! delivering her yearning yowl over gently burbling keyboard chords instead of Zinner’s trademark circular-saw riffs.
Subbing out an instrument and switching up the tempos that way is a fairly radical change. Still, the result feels unexpectedly familiar — almost like a long-form exploration of the band’s most recognizable hit, 2003’s ”Maps.” These largely soft, slow numbers have clear echoes of that epic ballad, which always stood out from the otherwise raucous Yeah Yeah Yeahs catalog. And if nothing here quite matches the immediacy of ”Maps,” well, few songs by any artist have done so in the years since its release. An album of tunes that follow and update its pattern is still worth celebrating. B+
Download This: Listen to the song ”Soft Shock” on the band’s MySpace