Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll

Close – but not quite…


Dave Moore: I don’t think any other single song has warped me back to an impromptu dorm room dance party so effectively in recent memory. And what’s really great about this song is that even though plenty of people around here would immediately dock it points at mere intimation of an “impromptu dorm room dance party” (um, including me), I’m betting it’s still going to do pretty well. Megalomaniacal crossover appeal.

Chuck Eddy: My favorite track on It’s Blitz!, maybe partly because I have a thing for Alice In Wonderland and pools of blood on the old dancefloor. Thing is, I don’t like It’s Blitz! as much as you probably do; the YYYs seem to be savvily incorpoprating more dance-music-type space since the last time I checked in with them, but much of the new album still hits me as really vague — at least in part because Karen O’s already grating voice fades into the mix too much. And she doesn’t exactly dance me to death even when she doesn’t fade into the mix.

Edward Okulicz: I’m not convinced by the chorus, which lacks the sharpness that would be required to behead and is a bit shrieky, but everything else here seems to work pretty damned well. Except for when she yelps “dance ’til you’re dead”, Karen O really does make me want to dance, and she is much better at being a synth-rock Chrissie Hynde than anyone has a right to be.

Michaelangelo Matos: Ingredients: circus-organ rave loop, doomsday scenario, pointillist post-punk guitar, the shimmering synth progression Moby forgot to include in his ecstatic ’93-’95 run, and finally — finally — some power chords. Result: perfect summer-driving soundtrack, whatever time of day or night.

Martin Kavka: I don’t understand how anyone can experience the Yeah Yeah Yeahs purely aurally. When I watch the video for this, it’s propulsive and vital, showing both rock and dance how to create the greatest amount of energy in under four minutes. When I listen to it, it seems a bit more plodding, as if it were afraid to actually dance, and its lyrics seem a wee bit stupid. So it’s either a 5 or a 10.

Talia Kraines: I’m not sure what has happened with the promotion of It’s Blitz!, but I feel that had things been different, ‘Heads Will Roll’ could have been looking at a massive crossover chart hit. The epic, slightly wonky synths smoothly roll by while Karen O yelps over the top culminating in a dramatic all-out ravey chorus. Ferocious.

Alfred Soto: I’ve waited six months to hear a couplet as pithy as “Off, off, off with your head/Dance, dance, dance till you’re dead” on the radio. This latest, and best, appropriation of the hallowed “Blue Monday” riff takes the message of Joy Division’s “Transmission” through a tour of wet streets on which men and girls pogo to ridiculous lyrics. That’s what all great dance music demands, and I get off as much on Karen O’s joining the street party, Nick Zinner’s guitar dripping with punk-disco alchemy, and Brian Chase’s flippy-floppy percussion as I do on the whole glimmering package. If this is the YYYs’ idea of community, then I’m ready to sign petitions.

Martin Skidmore: They are blending dance sounds beautifully with trad rock instrumentation, and generating irresistible choruses. I know some people who find Karen O’s voice annoying, but I really like the sharpness and energy in it, and her delivery of the stylish scenery of these lyrics is particularly confident.

Jordan Sargent: Karen O won’t go down in history for her lyrics, and so “Heads Will Roll” is almost stunning in its opaque evocativeness. The image of her prancing down sparkling silver streets amongst dismembered heads is almost as invigorating as the song itself, and that’s saying something coming from a woman whose most famous line is also her most straightforward.

Hillary Brown: Nothing like the deadly, glittering butterfly that was “Zero,” but this is a fine track in its own right and a surprisingly good mix of dance floor and White Stripes.

Ian Mathers: The key to “Heads Will Roll” (and much of It’s Blitz!) is that for the first time, even as the track powers up (that fairly amazing guitar/synth surge just before the chorus), she gets calmer and gentler (the “shut your eyes” part).

Jonathan Bradley: Wielding a synth that shines like the blade on a guillotine, the Queen of Hearts spits her death warrants over funeral-disco that manages to be both brittle and lavish. She sounds here as if, should you gaze into her eyes, you’d see nothing there; no woman with even a glimmer of humanity could order such a divine torture as her proscription to “Dance ’til you’re dead.” Thwack, thwack, thwack, go the drums. “The men cried out, the girls cried out.” Cold.

Anthony Easton: 1 — Karen O’s voice moves past what female work has been allowed in the past (part rock screamer, part abstracted noise machine, ethereal when needed); 2 — Nick Zinner’s guitar work is processed, noisy, atonal, but muscular. The intellect and the body that combine in making his sounds make him the first new noise coming out of the instrument in decades; 3 — The video is historically minded, acknowledges pop and kitsch, is visually stunning, and is v. funny. It works towards being of that LES art thing, without being irritating at all (in fact her whole visual package could be as artifice-ridden and aggravating as the Gaga, but it isn’t… like Bowie circa Aladdin Sane, they realise that no matter how good the music is, people need things to look at); 4 — The synths, the drum fills; 5 — The band knows how to construct hooks, how to make pop songs, in and out in under 4 minutes; 6 — I love the line, “Glitter over wet streets, silver over everything, the rivers all wet, yr all Chrome” — I am in favour of glitter; 7 — Indie you can dance to (I mean genuine, full body, hip shaking, head banging, shoulder thrusting DANCE, and she knows that, so she commands us to dance until we are dead — always love a good carpe diem message); 8 — In the middle of all of this corpereal pleasure, there is something menacing, and the menace is part of the text, but does not overwhelm (i.e. the song could fall apart as some easily digested cautionary tale and it doesn’t — it integrates seemingly contradictory messages and intentions); 9 — I have heard this for 6 weeks now, and I have conversations about this, and I settle out this must mean something, about why this is a work of genius, and I could go through it, make a list like this, and here I have — this is much too long to be posted, but every new listening I hear something else, I hear something that I am too stupid or too deaf to articulate. Like all great works of art, and few great works of pop, it fulfills Browning’s maxim: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” Single of the Year. Single of the motherfucking decade.

16 Responses to “Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll”

  1. Yeesh, I have been lax re: jukeboxing lately, but I’d’ve given this an easy [10], it’s much much better than “Zero” for me.

  2. I don’t get it. This seems so hammy and forced and I’ll never like Karen O’s voice and it definitely does not make me want to dance and I love to dance more than anything in the world. I probably would have given this a 4 or 5.

  3. The problem with this as ‘dance-rock’ is that it feels like the YYYs have no comittment here to either to dance music or to rock and roll, so it works as neither when ideally it could work as both. It all comes across as a lot of signifier and no functionality.

  4. To me, it works very well as both rock and dance, and the two are working together surprisingly seamlessly.

    Anthony’s review is wonderful, and sort of makes me think I should love this more than ‘Zero’, which I don’t.

  5. Kinda shocked in the midst of all the excitement about Karen O going dance or this kind of thing going pop, no one wrote the words “Siouxsie Sioux,” “corny” or the number 6.

  6. Also Alfred, if you think this is pithy you gotta check out this song called “Boom Boom Pow.”

  7. I must see if I can make that same noise as on the intro on my MicroKorg later.

  8. I think the key to Jonathan’s blurb is to read it like Vincent Price.

  9. I think the key to all my blurbs is to read them like Vincent Price.

  10. I’m glad this didn’t top Taylor Swift. I don’t know why people are so excited about YYYs all of a sudden.

  11. Because they all of a sudden made a really great song.

  12. Two great singles in a row! That is rare!

  13. why isn’t this listed on the sidebar?

  14. I’m guessing because Will’s on vacation.

  15. Obviously my opinion is mooted by not actually writing about this, but this is maybe my least favorite song on the album. Very odd.

  16. Off with your head.