Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
Who are Yeah Yeah Yeahs?
They’re the art-rock-punk-pop trio that were at the forefront of the New York revival in the early 2000’s, and are fast approaching seminal status thanks to their ability to continuously evolve musically while remaining current and vital. Karen O is the enigmatic frontwoman, Nick Zinner the technically gifted guitarist/keyboardist and Brian Chase the underrated drummer.
What do I need to know about Mosquito?
It’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ fourth studio album, and has been described by Karen O as ‘lo-fi’ and their attempt at a ‘soul’ record. It also has a very, very garish cover (above).
What’s good about Mosquito?
From the husky opening vocals of ‘Sacrilege’ to the beautifully constructed outro on album closer ‘Wedding Song’, Mosquito is an album of superbly balanced textures and nuances that demands your undivided attention throughout.
The ‘soul’ and ‘lo-fi’ aspects alluded to by Karen O are apparent from the off, with the very soulful and gospel tinged ‘Sacrilege’ and the stripped back ‘Subway’, which uses the metronomic sound of a passing train as the backing track. This doesn’t last long though, as the title track launches us into Yeah Yeah Yeah’s trademark brand of scuzzy, energetic rock – with O spitting the lyrics out with typical relish: ‘He will suck your blood / He will suck your blood / He will suck your blood / Suck your suck your suck your blood’.
The most interesting aspect of Mosquito is the extent to which Yeah Yeah Yeahs are prepared to experiment. They’ve always been a band to mix things up a bit, but the constant invention on show here is frightening. ‘Slave’, up there with their very best, is a pulsating mid-tempo rock song which features a sharp guitar line mixing with a funk bassline. ‘These Paths’, also up there with their very best, starts with a more minimalist electro feel and builds layers of synths and drum patterns over the top until it’s fit to burst. ‘Area 52’ is a straight up rock song with echoes of The Stooges and some memorable Karen O lines: “I wanna be your passenger / Take me as your prisoner / I wanna be an alien.” Then there’s ‘Buried Alive’, their collaboration with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and hip-hop legend Dr Octagon, which adds all the colour and vitality such a line-up would suggest.
With every passing track Mosquito becomes more difficult to pin down as it continuously buzzes about, settling on an idea for half a song, drawing all the life out of it and then setting off in search of the next great idea to sink its teeth into.
What’s not so good?
Usually, an album which has so much going on would suffer from a lack of focus and direction. That’s not the case with Mosquito though, which has enough cohesive elements – particularly Karen O’s vocals and Dave Sitek’s textured production – to maintain its momentum through all 11 tracks.
Everything seems to have clicked for Yeah Yeah Yeahs on Mosquito. It features some of their best songwriting and composition – which helps it to not only sustain so many different ideas, but to feed off them and flourish into the most complete and satisfying album of their career so far.