ALBUM REVIEW: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito

Mosquito artwork
Mosquito artwork

ARTIST Yeah Yeah Yeahs

ALBUM Mosquito

LABEL Interscope

RELEASE DATE 16.4.2013

6.9 | 10

When that church choir kicks in on the heart stopping lead single off the Yeah Yeah Yeahs fourth studio album, Karen O and her bandmates make their biggest musical statement yet. Just as much of a head turner as “Zero,” the lead single off their largely synth-based 2009 album It’s Blitz!, “Sacrilege” sets the stage for the the band’s most chaotic album yet.

“Under The Earth,” features a stadium-ready chant as Karen O coos and hisses over an off-kilter and soulful groove courtesy Nick Zinner and Brian Chase. Elsewhere, Orzolek plays the role of alien (“Area 52”), mosquito (“Mosquito”) and slave (“Slave”), slipping into each character with an ease seldom seen in the genre. It’s for these reasons the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been so successful and beloved for so many years, and Karen O here is seen at her most unpredictable and spotaneous on record. On “Mosquito,” she sounds more and more deranged each time she sings, “They’ll suck your blood, suck ya, suck ya!” During the bridge, she coos with an increasing amount of threatening angst, “Were you itchin’ when they called your name?”

“These Paths” has Karen O caterwauling as she pleads, “Take your piece, or you’ll starve / Take your piece, take it kid” over jangly guitars and an increasing sturdy wall of synthesizers, reminiscent of the more upbeat numbers in Johnny Jewel’s discography. Karen O’s chopped up vocals are a nice effect, yet ultimately wears out its welcome a minute too soon, bogging the song down. “Buried Alive,” the buzzed-about track produced by James Murphy and featuring Dr. Octagon, is as much as a miss as it is a hit. Octogan’s presence is an odd pairing for the group, and the lyrics include all the trademark hip-hop lyrical clichés of today. The trio of slower numbers that close the album somewhat mute Karen O’s persona, none of them matching the band’s flawless execution on “Subway,” a gorgeous ballad parallel to their finest work, “Maps.” The second track on the album, it is a jarring juxtaposition to the bombastic and celebratory “Sacrilege.” A loop of a subway clanking along its track provides the sonic backbone for the song, as Karen purrs, “It was warm on my tongue, it was something in my heart” over some of the finest guitar work performed this year. “I waited and I waited,” she later whimpers, as if she has come to an understanding that the love yearned for in “Maps” is always one stop away.

Mosquito appears to be the work of a band taking a “what sticks?” approach, throwing disparate ingredients into a sonic blender with the end result being something that is sometimes beautiful and other times relentlessly bitter. While the highs are euphoric, the lows push the album in the complete opposite direction. Much like the insect from which the album gets its name, there is an aimlessness to this music, sometimes hitting on the sweet spot but often leading itself to its own demise.


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