Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
Well, it’s tough not to want to fall in love with Mosquito. Here is a record that is so defiantly its own beast that it proudly throws out a one-fingered salute to such concepts as “theme” or “direction.” The gist of Mosquito is that there is no gist. Yeah Yeah Yeahs have always been adept at changing their sound to accommodate the times; it’s why they’re still kicking around, headlining festivals and generally being a kickass rock band, while their early ‘00s NYC peers are gone or forgotten. Where 2009’s superb It’s Blitz! showed that the band could write a mean synth hook as well as Nick Zinner could up the fuzz, Mosquito delves even deeper into a sound that is increasingly divergent and, at times, barely recognizable as Yeah Yeah Yeahs. First single “Sacrilege” is a fine example, setting things off with a full blown gospel choir and a typically combustible performance by Karen O. The epic scope and superfluous backing is an odd tack, but it is in line with what the band has always been comfortable doing – pushing their boundaries while maintaining those sharp pop sensibilities. That anything-goes mentality is admirable, but where It’s Blitz! succeeded precisely because it was so focused, Mosquito dips its toes into far too many pools to ever have a chance to really stop and appreciate the feeling.
Somewhere in this jumbled mess of a record is a gem of an art-pop album, one where you can clearly see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs expounding on the eclectic promise that It’s Blitz! hinted at. The grotesque, reggae-tinged “Under The Earth;” the skittish breakbeat of “These Paths;” “Subway,” another in a long line of insta-classic Yeah Yeah Yeahs ballads; these are songs as thrilling and adventurous as anything the band has done before. Yet in the context of the rest of the album, these songs are oases of inspiration in a disjointed desert of half-baked ideas and uneven songwriting. It’s the aural equivalent of that bizarre cover, an amalgam of contrasting styles and thoughts that clash playfully and loudly against one another but rarely in concert. Songs like the title track and “Area 52” almost sound like parodies of the band’s punk past, more an after-school special or something you’d expect to find on a rarities compilation rather than standing by side with the haunting “These Paths” or the meditative heartache of “Subway.” Dr. Octagon’s (aka Kool Keith) guest spot on “Buried Alive” is even more bizarre, a textbook case of cognitive dissonance that is meant to be fun but is just embarrassing for all involved. In Mosquito’s jumbled mess, throwing up a guest rap verse in the middle of a James Murphy-produced song is par for the course, experimentation for the sake of experimentation and nothing more.
For a band that has prided itself on keeping things fresh, this sort of halfhearted progressive spirit is arguably worse than if the band had decided to just double down on “Zero.” At its best, Mosquito is exactly that fresh, exhilarating album that “Sacrilege” promised, lurking somewhere down past all the erratic genre exercises. It’s there when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs commit, either thematically (“These Paths,” “Subway”) or emotionally (“Wedding Song,” the latest in a long line of weepy, nakedly powerful stunners from the group). The problem is, in the chaotic world of Mosquito, commitment is hard to find; at its worst, the album is a caricature of the band’s frenetic live show, Karen O giving her all on a song about how mosquitos suck blood and giving us absolutely no reason to sing along. Luckily for fans of the group, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have had no problems in the past moving on to the next thing. Here’s hoping they spend a little time and decide how they want to get there first.
'We would love for this music to make our fans feeeeel something, for it to stir some sh*t up inside of them, whatever that may be,' says singer Karen O. 'SO much feeling went into this record, it was the rope ladder thrown down into the ditch for us to climb up and dust ourselves off. I hope others can climb up it too; we're excited to share the good vibes.'
The band, whose members were once lovingly labeled by Rolling Stone as the 'goth, the nerd and the slut' have recorded three studio albums: All 3 albums were nominated for a GRAMMY award for Best Alternative Music Album. The first, 'Fever to Tell', was named as the best album of the year by The New York Times. The Patrick Daughters-directed video 'Maps' was nominated for four MTV Video Music Awards. The certified-Gold album was named by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork Media, and NME as one of the best albums of the decade. The second, 'Show Your Bones', was named the second best album of the year by NME. Rolling Stone magazine named it the one of the best album of the year, while Spin Magazine ranked it in their 40 best albums of 2006. Their third studio album, 'It's Blitz!', was named the second best album of the year by NME magazine, It's Blitz! was named as the second best album of 2009 by Spin Magazine and third best of 2009 by NME along with the single 'Zero' from the album listed as the best track of the year by both. And onto 'Mosquito!'