After their flashy, dance-friendly album “It’s Blitz!,” the New York trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs claim they’re returning to basics on their fourth studio production, supposedly reminiscent of “Show Your Bones” (2006). I say “supposedly” because while “Show Your Bones” was a great milestone for the ever-evolving band, “Mosquito” feels painfully inadequate and unable to follow the energy of their lead single “Sacrilege.” This is unfortunate, because with its vibrant, very Yeah Yeah Yeahs vibe and lively gospel choir, “Sacrilege” has quickly become a song that I felt shameless about cranking on full blast.
What made their previous albums so successful and a pleasure to put on repeat was the way the songs played off of each other. On “It’s Blitz!” the combination of amped-up hits such as “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll” contrasted seamlessly with the more tamed “Soft Shock” and tender lullaby quality of “Little Shadow.” The same pattern goes for their debut “Fever to Tell.” This is important, because the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have always possessed an attractive edge to them––punkish, fun, experimental. They are the masters of cacophony, but it is always well-controlled and glamorously done: never overwhelming or underwhelming, just the right amount of chaos and quirkiness. Even the songs that aren’t my favorites are good.
However, on “Mosquito,” there is definitely a line between the tracks that rocked and the ones that are unbearable. Karen O’s eclectic and electrifying performances consistently blended with talented guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase. The three work well together and have been dishing out sass since the band’s earliest days, but certain songs off their latest endeavor, such as “Mosquito” and “Area 52,” felt strangely forced and unpolished. The lyrics “They’ll suck your blood!” stung in a bad way, and not even Karen’s always-enthusiastic yowling can save the song. “Area 52” is punctuated by weird high-pitched buzzing, emulating an alien vibe, and the result was tasteless and forgettable.
The second song off the album, “Subway,” is one of the more subdued songs utilizing the softer side of Karen O’s distinct vocals. It is memorable because the band incorporated the lonely sound of wheels chugging along the tracks, which created a quiet, eerie and haunting nostalgia that can only be an ode to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ hometown of New York. “Buried Alive,” on the other hand, is quite the unique piece. It features Dr. Octagon, the extraterrestrial gynecologist persona of rapper Kool Keith. As a band as weird as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen and Dr. Octagon birthed a strangely groovy track that required several plays for me to appreciate the trippy, slightly nightmarish quality that was a welcome change from the disaster of “Area 52.”
Despite a few setbacks, it’s unfair to say that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn’t try. Always staying true to their humorously blunt attitude, the band created an album that reflects what they want their listeners to hear, not what they think their listeners will want. Sure, they may have missed the mark a bit, but after generating three incredible albums all with varying qualities and sentiments, it’s understanding that they finally pushed out an album that’s not quite satisfying to their fans. It’s been almost exactly 10 years since the band’s debut album, and it’s clear that they’re still growing and experimenting with their sound. Listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is like going on a rollercoaster: the highest highs are far from the lowest lows, and each track is unpredictable and offbeat in its own funky way.
Though not their strongest album, “Mosquito” still has its gems. Even if none match up to the brilliance of “Sacrilege,” tracks such as “Buried Alive,” “Despair,” and the sweet “Wedding Song”—Karen O sang this to her husband Barnaby Clay at their 2011 wedding—round out an otherwise bumpy trek through their fourth transformation.
Rating: 3 stars