“Dance till you’re dead!” commands Karen O over the opening notes of “Heads Will Roll,” the second song on Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ third album. Anyone who has been to one of the Manhattan—born trio’s live shows knows that life—and—limb—imperiling body—moving is central to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs experience. But on It’s Blitz!, the sound that has heretofore powered the band’s art—punk dance party — guitar hero Nick Zinner’s jagged riffing — gives way to a new kind of thump. You can hear it in the bass—keyboard surge of “Heads Will Roll”; in the shuddering synths of the lead single, “Zero”; in “Dragon Queen,” when Karen O asks, “How are you not going to get high?” over a louche funk groove. It’s Blitz! isn’t exactly a disco record, but it’s as close as Yeah Yeah Yeahs are likely to get.
The turn toward the dance floor makes sense: Yeah Yeah Yeahs are drawing on a tradition of arty New York dance punk that extends from the Talking Heads to TV on the Radio, whose guitarist, Dave Sitek, co—produced It’s Blitz! The big news, though, isn’t YYY’s groovier sound — it’s the heat they radiate. Karen O has always been an enigmatic star, with a wild stage presence that never quite dispelled her air of hipster—diva froideur. But a thaw is setting in. Ballads like the Celtic—flavored “Skeletons” and “Little Shadow,” with its swelling church—organ strains, lean toward the grandeur of U2. Even the barnburners have moments of flaming romanticism. “Shake it/Like a ladder to the sun,” Karen O cries in “Zero,” sounding infected with disco’s feel—good spirituality: Now she’s a bohemian fairy godmother, counseling transcendence through booty—shaking.