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It’s been thirteen years since the indie/punk/rock (and a million other vague genres that don’t adequately describe their sound) Yeah Yeah Yeahs exploded onto the alternative music scene. If you can believe it. It seems like just yesterday that their hit “Maps” was creeping onto the airwaves of alt. radio stations as the bad suddenly catapulted from flying under the radar to stardom with their first album, Fever To Tell, flooring both critics and fans alike. A decisive, edgy, self-confident album, their debut set the bar high for future releases—and the band is finally back with new material.
Fronted by the ageless babe of the century, Karen O, with Brian Chase on drums and keyboardist/guitarist Nick Zinner, the trio has released their fourth studio LP, Mosquito. Complete with cover art in the classic Yeah Yeah Yeahs neon/punk aesthetic that has graced their previous releases, it’s an album that looks promising in terms of delivering the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ signature energy. Tragically, this is probably an instance where fans will want to revert to the age-old adage that their parents always told them—don’t judge a book by its cover.
While Mosquito is not a terrible album by any means, it fails to live up to the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s previous releases. Maybe it’s unfair to compare Mosquito to the masterpiece that was Fever To Tell, but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have released three solid CDs over the past decade, and this is where they falter. It’s bound to happen to any band, particularly a band steeped in hype the way the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have grown to be, but Mosquito disappoints.
The first single from the CD, the sinister-but-catchy “Sacrilege,” was released with a killer music video and Karen O’s signature strained vocals, undoubtedly filling fans with excitement and anticipation regarding Mosquito. But even though the repeated, “It’s sacrilege, sacrilege, sacrilege, you say,” is perfect for singing along, even though it has a good beat, and even though there is a cool, effortlessly dark vibe exuded by this track, even “Sacrilege” is not the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their best. It becomes repetitive. It lacks their signature punch; there is a sense of restraint on this track that does not result in the band seeming more polished or more mature—rather, it’s almost as though the Yeah Yeah Yeahs forget what their sound is and instead of progressing, are interested only in trying to recreate what they’ve already done.
Mosquito lacks movement and urgency. There’s no wild, off the walls, head banging moments. Yes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs still sound cool (because it would be impossible for them to not, honestly) and this is an okay album; newcomer fans of the band may enjoy it, but there’s no way die-hard fans will feel satisfied. It’s strange, because Karen O’s vocals are on point, the music, for the most part, is on point, but there is a missing ingredient: the raw, unhinged, reckless power.
“Subway,” the second track on the album, is a muted, moody track that ultimately is forgettable, sparse save for Karen O’s voice. The same can be said of “Always,” where even lyrically the song is barren; however, it does pick up more halfway through, sounding like it could fit maybe on Show Your Bones.
The CD also is lacking in cohesion—“These Paths” is another song without a hook, or even really a steady drumbeat, while “Mosquito,” the title track, is probably the closest that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to matching their former glory. A sassy, weird track, “Mosquito” has more of a bite than other songs, but even so, it can’t really shine because it’s sandwiched between “Subway,” and the odd “Under The Earth,” another slower song punctuated by a repetitive bass line. It seems like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were unable to choose a focus for the CD.
Even though Mosquito is the band’s weakest release to date, fans shouldn’t fret—Fever To Tell, Show Your Bones, and It’s Blitz! were all genius, and while it could be easy to assume the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have simply burned out, that’s not fair to them—there are brief glimmers of the classic Yeah Yeah Yeahs kick on Mosquito, just buried beneath all the missteps. At the very least, though, it’s comforting to know that even if Mosquito is a lackluster album, the band could probably still perform the hell out of it.
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