Released: April 16, 2013
I have not been looking forward to writing this review. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been one of my favorite bands since I learned about the existence of alternative music in 2003. Like The Strokes and The Postal Service, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were a gateway drug that lead me to countless other bands. Fever To Tell is still one of my favorite records and I’ve scarcely heard a debut album that so relentlessly captured my attention on a first listen (Sleigh Bells’ Treats comes close though). Show Your Bones was somewhat disappointing but still enjoyable follow up and It’s Blitz! was a brilliant reinvention of their sound. I’ve seen them live three times, most recently at Coachella, and every time they put on a hell of a live show. I was thrilled when I heard they would be releasing a new album this year and was downright elated when I heard the triumphant first single “Sacrilege”. In ten years they have solidified themselves as one of the most creative, energetic and dynamic bands on the scene. And that’s why I have been dreading this review: Mosquito is terribly uninspired, lethargic and generally mediocre record.
The album starts with “Sacrilege” which is easily on of the best songs of 2013. Starting with a single fuzzy guitar note and Karen O singing about an affair with the divine, the song builds to a euphoric chorus that eventually includes a full gospel choir (who accompanies them live to great effect). It is a departure from everything they have released before and at the same time it is unmistakably from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Unfortunately, the album goes immediately downhill from there. The rest of Mosquito is filled with two types of songs: fast paced rock tracks and mid tempo ballads.
The problem with the rock tracks like “Area 52” and “Mosquito” is that they seem to be desperately trying to reclaim the noisey lo-if sound of their debut album. But where Fever to Tell was frantic, gritty, and dynamic, Mosquito‘s rock tracks sound simple and unmotivated. Karen O’s howl takes a back seat to the instruments and the guitar riffs lack teeth. The album is often in pursuit of “grit” but while they have the distortion pedals locked down just fine the aggressive, intricate riffs that have defined their career are nowhere to be found.
As for the mid tempo tracks, I understand there is a degree of experimentation they are hoping to achieve but the final product is tedious. “Subway” is a soft slow song that has a lot of static layers and train sounds but virtually nothing to hold my attention. “Under the Earth” has a steady stomping rhythm but such a plain melody that it loses my attention after only about a minute. “Buried Alive” has a bizarrely misplaced and misguided rap feature from someone named Dr. Octagon. Maybe I should know who he is, but I certainly don’t know why he is appearing on a Yeah Yeah Yeahs album. It just seems like a lazy choice.
While Mosquito is certainly a disappointing entry into the catalogue of this normally stellar band, there are a few decent tracks. Like I mentioned earlier, “Sacrilege” is a phenomenal track that’s as good as any other single that has been released this year. The final two tracks are the only others I really enjoy. “Despair” has a guitar part that reminds me of “Maps” or “Y Control” with a synth layer that would have fit in perfectly on It’s Blitz!. It’s a thoughtful and well executed track. “Wedding Song” is a pulsating atmospheric ballad that beautifully wraps up and otherwise forgettable album.
Maybe its my own fault for putting the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on such a lofty pedestal but Mosquito falls dreadfully short of my expectations. I’m sure the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be back in a few years with another new direction for their sound but until then I’m sticking with Fever to Tell and It’s Blitz! and I’m going to let Mosquito collect some dust on my shelf. It’s more than a shame, it’s sacrilege.
Top Tracks: “Sacrilege”, “Despair”, “Wedding Song”