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This article was published 22/4/2009 (4005 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
NEW YORK -- The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have never been more dangerous than when they're threatening to behead everyone on the dance floor.
On Heads Will Roll, the second track on the New York trio's latest album, It's Blitz! singer Karen O yelps her mandate over slabs of marbled synths: "Off, off, off with your head / Dance dance, dance till you're dead!"
Over a recent lunch at a busy Chinese joint on Manhattan's Lower East Side, the lynxlike singer -- whose band just kicked off more than four months of international touring -- explains why a little tough love goes a long way.
"We still have to grab people by the collar," she says. "We put out a record every three years now; we could easily be forgotten. If you look at a lot of our peers that we came up with, a lot of them have disappeared."
Karen O, guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase still feel the urgency of the band's volcanic self-titled debut EP and 2003's Fever to Tell. But they channel it anew on their third album with a steely suite of disco-era keys, processed guitars, piston-timed drumming and Karen O's vocals, which veer from vampy to achy.
The result is the band's most flagrant dance record but one with the tough tenderness of Blondie's Parallel Lines.
Chase describes it as "really celebratory and ecstatic," he says. "But we put ourselves through a heavy process to get there. It wasn't easy."
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have courted disaster before. In 2006, the making of Show Your Bones prompted internal clashes as the musicians worked to add cooler tones to their fiery racket.
"We never talked about breaking up, but we all probably thought about it," Karen O says. "But when the going gets rough, you can't just bail."
For It's Blitz!, Zinner, who's been hailed by critics as one of rock's best guitarists for his trademark chimes and snarls, branched out to play keyboards, the record's most obvious break from expectation. He also disguised his guitar turns with reverb and delay. The change made him insecure sometimes but "that was the point," he says. "The worst thing we could do at this time is rely on old tricks."
The New Jersey-raised Karen O, 30 and a Los Angeles denizen since 2004, is moving beyond her initial stage persona as punk vixen in tatters designed by close friend Christian Joy.
"I'm not a 21-year-old, angsty, self-destructive rapscallion anymore," she says. "My performance used to be centered around blitz, but now it's closer to kung fu. I try to harness the energy instead of just flying around the stage."
But the essence of blitz will never leave; it's only been redefined for now. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are dedicated to its spirit.
"We have no allegiance to any one style," Karen O says, "only what's raw and true."
-- Los Angeles Times