Album Review

Mosquito

Mosquito

by Yeah Yeah Yeahs


Modular
6.5 / 10
24th April 2013

Reviewed by Courtney Sanders


The Yeah Yeah Yeahs burst forth from the alt-rock revival scene a decade ago with unapologetically aggressive punk songs that they covered in costumes and glitter and showmanship, and spat back to crowds who had gone along to witness The Thing that everyone was talking about. They packaged all of this into debut album Fever to Tell that - with tracks like ‘Date with the Night’ and ‘Tick’ - was nothing short of impressively relentless. That is, until the band wanted it to be, and ballad ‘Maps’ turned Fever to Tell’s thick, sticky 'tude upside down, proving both the band’s ingenuity and depth. When they followed their debut up with Show Your Bones, one did wonder what the hell was going on. But as the artwork was explained – a fan-designed YYY flag borne from a competition the band held (punk lives) – the album’s thematic heart revealed itself and the introspection of ‘Cheated Hearts’ and ‘Turn Into’ proved as powerful after multiple listens as Fever To Tell’s rambunctious nature. 2009’s It’s Blitz! was the same: the brittle electronic direction the band opted for eloquently complimented songs about fame and solitude, as ‘Heads Will Roll’ ‘Dull Life’ demonstrate. This trio of albums each presented a heady combination of bat-shit craziness, cool and ingenuity that served a clear direction, they’re classic records because of that.

Since 2009 Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been focussing on different things. Karen O contributed to the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack and – along with Nick Zinner – wrote a rock opera, Stop the Virgens which they toured internationally, and drummer Brian Chase wrote a solo album. Mosquito followed these experiences and one would therefore expect it to be eclectic, unfortunately just not like it is. Where previously their darts of experimentation each hit this specific, pulsating mark, on Mosquito they misfire in totally un-Yeah Yeah Yeahs ways. Hollow lyrics in the title song (which makes the failure all-the-more noteworthy) and ‘Area 52’ – both of which deal with the same unclear dystopian subject matter – turn Karen O’s squeal into a profoundly uncool tool. Karen O! Profoundly uncool! 'Buried Alive', featuring Kool Keith's extraterrestrial alter-ego Dr. Octagon is the band's best attempt at presenting their concerns with the unknown: all pulsing, sparkly synthesizers, gut-wrenching guitar and repetitive, trance-like vocals. The sombre moments on Mosquito offer solace from the aforementioned, namely ‘Wedding Song’ a beautiful decade-on piano companion to ‘Maps’, and one she apparently sung to husband Barnaby Clay at their 2011 wedding: “In flames I sleep soundly / With angels around me” – naw. Second track ‘Subway’ too, is all understated admissions of suspicion, and would have actually been an appropriate opener for an album that went where 'Mosquito' and 'Area 52' actually wanted to go. Lead single ‘Sacrilege’ does employ more tools than the band have ever needed – including a gospel choir – to make a track climax, but it does do just that from two minutes onward as searing guitars and layered vocals ensconce Orzalek’s vengeful sentiment – a sentiment the video clip hauntingly compounds.

Fake blood, spitting, glitter, stomping, screaming. In the past Yeah Yeah Yeahs have used it all to elevate truly excellent songs. On Mosquito they made need it all to cover up the not so good ones.




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