Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
Published on April 19th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
New York three-piece Yeah Yeah Yeahs are still capable of drumming up a compelling racket when the mood takes them, so it feels like something of a shame that they also remain so unrelentingly in thrall to their own suffocating darkness. That’s not to say they should start listening to The Beach Boys and incorporating the banjo, but surprises are too thin on the ground for their fourth album Mosquito to leave much of an impression beyond “yes, they are still good at sounding like themselves”.
This even applies to their more emotive side, as expressed through numbers like “Skeletons” and “Little Shadow” from 2009 predecessor It’s Blitz!. Penultimate track “Despair” sees Karen apparently baring her soul to a vast-sounding musical landscape, veering towards a graceful form of pop which takes flight without really going anywhere particularly interesting, and – aside from the innate self-assuredness of lines like “With every breath I breathe / I’m making history” – set-closer “Wedding Song” finds her sounding unusually loved-up/lovelorn/submissive/all of the above. The results may jolt in the wake of the scuzzier material preceding it, but not without going through a certain amount of motions.
At the front end of the album, we get the usual array of distorted yelps, invocations of dread and menacing energy. Single and opening track “Sacrilege” fares well with its wibbly, reverbed guitar sound and sort-of Big Beat (remember that?), all rounded off unexpectedly by the sudden insertion of a gospel choir. Sassy speak-singing meets pounding rhythm and two-note bass line on the title track, where the repeated refrain of “they’ll suck your blood” is delivered with unhinged relish, while the somber yet energising march of “Under the Earth” could almost have featured, as indeed Karen O did, on The Flaming Lips’ 2009 LP Embryonic.
“Mosquito” swooshes off into the ether and winds up, via a spot of dubby otherworldliness, in the rockier climes of “Slave”, before “These Paths” chips in with a popping ‘n’ clicking drum machine and laterally conceived interjections of synth; it’s got a nice, busy mix about it, but still steeped in that suffocating darkness. “Area 52” is the kind of blaring cacophony they do well, and the Dr. Octagon-featuring “Buried Alive” treads a fine line but is just about weird enough to work, so Mosquito isn’t without its talking points.
The minor-key, ’80s-ish synth-pop ballad “Always” may delight or infuriate depending on your sensibility and/or expectations, at once arousing suspicion and securing the benefit of the doubt by sounding so gosh-darned polished; it’s not overly clinical, though, so Rocksucker just about approves.
A mix, then, of tried and trusted Yeah Yeah Yeahs calling cards and only sporadically successful attempts at expansion: Mosquito certainly doesn’t suck, but neither does it get under our skin. What it does guarantee, however, is a spate of reviews featuring limp puns such as those.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!