Monday, April 15, 2013

Album Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Mosquito"

Ten years after their debut Fever to Tell, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are back with the highly anticipated Mosquito, out tomorrow on Interscope Records.

Mosquito, much like its 2010 predecessor It's Blitz!, can be quite the mood swing. Songs like "Subway" and "Wedding Song" leave you hanging on to Karen O's soft, crooning vocals while "Sacrilege" and "Buried Alive [ft. Dr Octagon]" make it hard not to move to.

Other than that, however, Mosquito is entirely it's own creature entirely. While some will surely fault the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for the subdued nature of much of the album, but for me it seemed like a pretty logical transition for the band from Fever to Tell to here. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs still entirely sound like themselves, just a more grown-up version. Karen O may have bleached her hair and apparently started wearing pantsuits, but she can still sing as if her clothing was just as tattered as ten years ago, don't worry.

Subdued though it may be, that doesn't stop much of Mosquito from being weird as hell. (Front-woman Karen O alludes to this refers to it as "tongue-in-cheek" here.)  The title track includes Karen O hissing the word "mosquito" over and over, before describing a day in the life of a mosquito (leading me to think she has little concept of how mosquitos actually exist) and buzzing wildly. "Area 52" is a song about aliens, complete with an alien voice singing along during the chorus. None of this makes me not like the songs; frankly, I'm glad the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have maintained their sense of humor toward their own work. Heck, one can look at the album cover for proof of that.

While "Area 52" is amongst the weaker songs on the album, it's a really interesting track. Maybe I have watched enough of The X-Files to consider a campy song about alien abduction valid, but why not? Also, if there is a way to mention Space Oddity/Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie without actually drawing any sort of comparison, I would like to do that here, thank you. My point is: aliens are cool. I get it, Karen O. I at least kind of get it.

"Despair", one of the last tracks on the album, is a personal highlight. The guitar build in the beginning on the song matches perfectly with the delivery of the emotional lyrics. "You're there my wasted years/Through all of my lonely fears." A rare combination of a downer and a pep talk, the track helps both ground and round out the album.

It's not their strongest effort, to be sure, but Mosquito has enough strong points to hold its own amongst the rest of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs catalog. Fans of the band who can also listen with a sense of humor are likely to be pleased overall with the album. My recommendation comes with the aforementioned warning: it's weird, y'all.

Favorite track: "Sacrilege"
Song you can skip: "Always"

My rating: 3.9/5

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