Back with real bite

Lewis Coenen-Rowe gives the Yeah Yeah Yeahs new album Mosquito 4 stars

YeahYeahYeahsMosquito image

It’s now been ten years since Karen O and co released their debut album Fever to Tell and a lot has changed in that time. Their alt-rock compatriots of the early noughties seem to have faded into obscurity while YYY too have changed considerably as demonstrated by their last album, It’s Blitz, with its electronic sound palette, and more recent projects such as Karen O’s ‘opera’ Stop the Virgens. But this band shows no sign of fading away yet.

Mosquito is a fitting demonstration of how the band’s longevity has been achieved, flitting between a gamut of styles and genres while maintaining a central core of sound that makes it immediately recognisable. Take for example the gospel choir’s arrival towards the end of ‘Sacrilege’, which succeeds in undermining what could otherwise be a rather hackneyed gesture by turning it into a violent interruption (plus the delicious irony of having a gospel choir aggressively chant the word ‘sacrilege’ is much appreciated).

Although the band’s sound has lost some of its punkish edge the rebelliousness is still there, it has just been internalised. The lyrics have become more ambiguous but hide a wealth of meanings: it is possible to read a great deal into the penultimate track when the opening meditation “oh despair” is cut off by a repeated “my son is your son”.

The maturation of the band has lead them to adopt longer structures (the average song is almost twice as long as those of Fever to Tell in fact) meaning that, although a sense of urgency is lost, the sound-world of each track is explored more deeply and with more variety. ‘Buried Alive’ succeeds in combining elements of electro, rap and hard-core alongside a brief music-box coda while ‘Under the Earth’ synthesises dub reggae. The slower tracks especially benefit from this development. Highlight ‘Subway’ luxuriates over a repeating sample of wheels on tracks while Karen O’s croonings ‘I’m waiting and I’m waiting’ are gradually submerged in echoes. Variety is ensured at the opposite extreme in the flamboyantly garish ‘Area 52’ and ‘Mosquito’.

The experimental tone of this album demonstrates the start of a new direction for the band, raising a whole series of possible diversions in the future. It is by no means perfect, sometimes overusing echo effects or making clunky transitions, but its sheer vitality shows for sure that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have a guaranteed future far beyond the parasitical

Lewis Coenen-Rowe