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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

September 1, 2009 at 9:56 AM

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Sunday at Bumbershoot is all about Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Posted by Andrew Matson


Pretty sure Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "It's Blitz!" is still the best pop album of 2009. It's between that, Dirty Projectors' "Bitte Orca," and Gossip's "Music for Men."

Pretentiously discussing the cultural significances of those three albums is an activity best saved for the end of the year, but rest assured: When it's time to reflect on what pop music meant in 2009 -- what was a reflection of society vs. what did society reflect, etc. -- Yeah Yeah Yeahs and "It's Blitz!" will be major talking points.

Earlier this summer at Sasquatch!, I was convinced YYY was the best thing in the world. Granted, the band played at sunset, and everything was pink and purple, and that's a recipe for painful amounts of beauty at the Gorge. But it was more about the music.

"It's Blitz" was only two months old, and I was still in my honeymoon period with the album, just starting to appreciate its wide scope (dance-pop, rock jams, power ballads), and only on the edge of understanding its mix of obvious mainstream appeal with zero pandering to mainstream tastes. I knew right away "It's Blitz" wasn't what the people wanted, but what they needed, and couldn't have wanted anything more than to see Karen O (singer), Nick Zinner (guitarist), and Brian Chase (drummer) be received like new-school heroes and take a well-deserved victory lap. Could it happen? Could Yeah Yeah Yeahs sell it on the stage like on "It's Blitz!"? Wouldn't that be asking too much?

They played their set expertly, connecting with the crowd and also a seeming a little removed, apparently wrapped up in music. The crowd was beyond paying attention. It was living inside the performance. The vibe was cult-y, and Karen O a natural cult leader, kicking, screaming, shuddering, and fluttering inside a neon striped muumuu. During fan favorite "Maps," everybody at the Gorge -- everybody -- sang along to the "they don't love you like I love you" line, waved glow sticks, closed eyes, felt whatever feelings were happening.

The band's replicated that experience over and over again this summer, playing every major music festival. There'll be a month's tour break this fall, but Yeah Yeah Yeahs is pretty much soldiering on through winter, playing huge outdoor engagements and venues like opera houses all around the world. And with Karen O coordinating the soundtrack to the expected-to-be-gigantic "Where the Wild Things Are" movie, she and her band are the most artistically influential they've ever been.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs plays Memorial Stadium at 2:30 p.m., weirdly early for the best and most popular band at Bumbershoot 2009.

The band's soft side, expressed in an acoustic version of "Soft Shock" from "It's Blitz!":

And the star of the album, vaguely scary-sounding rave/rock anthem "Heads Will Roll":

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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