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Posted on April 20th, 2013 (11:45 am) by N. Neal Paradise

Among meteoric rises in the rock and roll world, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have had one of the more brilliant ones, at least in recent memory. They very quickly went from snot-nosed kids to one of the most respected acts still active today. Mosquito, released April 16th on Interscope Records, is only their fourth album, but they already have a pretty rich history to draw from. They’ve done more important work in ten years than lesser bands with double the discography.

Their last album, It’s Blitz!, made a bold statement about the power of a strong beat and legitimized the disco ball. Now, with their latest offering, they're taking a slight step backward towards their punk beginnings. Interestingly enough, though, this shift to the past still has indications of expanding into new territory. They’re recalling their past rather than retreating to it.

Karen O continues to have a quite impressive array of vocal qualities, but the instrumentation on Mosquito is less direct. It’s not exactly EDM – It’s Blitz!, while more dancey than their last two albums, wasn’t either – but rather more obtuse and introverted method of rocking out. Rock out they do, however. Something The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have always done well is getting you up out of your seat. With Mosquito, they seem more interested in giving your brain something to do while your body’s doing its own thing.

Opener and first single “Sacrilege” is a splendid slice of Rolling Stones-like energy. It starts off relatively quiet and builds to a flurry of musical ecstasy. From the beginning, Karen O’s two voice characters create a nervous tension, and that only increases once the drums kick in. It ends in complete musical abandon, complete with a frickin’ gospel choir. The switch from the Holy Ghost Power motif of “Sacrilege” to the quietly mechanistic despair of “Subway” is pretty startling. The title track contains the starkest case of the bands backtracking. “Mosquito” is simply teeming with punk energy, but it’s much more focused than anything on Fever to Tell. Karen O proves she’s much better at working with her inner monster than any Joan Jett impersonator out there. Another punky blast is “Area 52.” While it has a lot of power and a catchy rhythm, the song is a little too spastic for its own good.

There are more sinister tracks like “Under the Earth” and “Buried Alive,” the latter of which features a visit from Dr. Octagon, the planet-hopping, time-travelling gynecologist persona of rapper Kool Keith (I know, I know... just Wiki it...). Honestly, the intrusion of Dr. Octagon becomes less annoying on repeated listens of “Buried Alive,” and he does seem to fit in with the song’s air of spacey trouble.

Almost as if Karen and company didn’t want to end things on a dark note, the album closes with “Wedding Song,” one of the most nakedly honest and gosh-darned beautiful songs to come down the pipe in a while. The simplicity of the song is truly arresting, and its lack of adornment actually makes the biggest impact of the entire album. Karen O did indeed get married to longtime boyfriend Barnaby Clay in 2011, and this tribute to their love could easily be translated by couples the world over. The best thing about “Wedding Song” is that it’s not sappy or gushing, but still highly poetic.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs make a very good push forward with Mosquito, though it can confuse you if you’re used to the band's more direct approach of the past. The good news is they’re maturing and demanding even more respect. Truthfully, what did any of us expect?

Track List:
1. Sacrilege
2. Subway
3. Mosquito
4. Under the Earth
5. Slave
6. These Paths
7. Area 52
8. Buried Alive
9. Always
10. Despair
11. Wedding Song

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

71 / 100
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