The late-90s and early 2000s was a period where post-punk, garage-rock music was revived. Novelty music groups, such as The Strokes, Bloc Party, The Rapture, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, developed and invigorated East Coast clubs. Lo-fi and alternative rock were enhanced and adopted by many up-and-coming bands. One of these bands, the aforementioned Yeah Yeah Yeahs, have especially evolved over the course of a decade with three records (2003’s Fever to Tell, 2006’s Show Your Bones, and 2009’s It’s Blitz!). The New-York based trio have also performed in front of young audiences and recently played at SXSW and Coachella. This year, the YYYs have returned with a somewhat fresh new look (lead singer Karen O’s dyed blonde hair, perhaps) and a brand new record, Mosquito.
In recent interviews, Karen O and her bandmates, Nick Zinner and Brain Chase, have discussed their ideas and thought processes on the production of Mosquito and the general notions on their idiosyncratic sound as a band. Despite their sincerity and innovative spirit, Mosquito surprisingly falls flat. Compared to their excellent, dance-pop LP It’s Blitz! and their punk-rock debut Fever to Tell, Mosquito suffers from tonal inconsistencies, bizarre artwork, an ambiguous theme, and a confusing message. Sometimes, though, you could understand why Mosquito has this unpredictable aura, since the YYYs are always unpredictable. However, Mosquito is more sporadically shambolic than brilliantly, unintentionally clever.
Fortunately, Mosquito is not without its highlights: Early into the album is “Sacrilege,” a jittery pop-rock song, with some semi-religious undertones and a message about sexual irreverence and its result of overwhelming guilt. Most of it is mysterious, until it ends with a passionate gospel choir shouting “Sacrilege!,” as if the message they were conveying turned from insightful to exaggerated and delirious. Neverthless, it’s an original and highly diverse track off Mosquito. “Subway” and “Wedding Song” are quiet, alt-rock ballads about romance, which may sound cheap and banal. But with Karen O’s breathy vocals, Nick Zinner’s gentle guitar licks, and Brian Chase’s nice-and-easy drumming, both tunes are worthy of something off of the clumsy Mosquito. The electro-rock jams “Always” and “Despair” aren’t as powerful or as addictive as “Sacrilege,” but they’re nice to listen to.
Unfortunately, Mosquito deteriorates into utter mediocrity with head-scratching tracks like “Under the Earth,” “Slave,” and “Area 52,” possibly the YYYs weirdest and worst song. Why sing about aliens? What happened to singing about defiance in electro-dance power ballads like “Heads Will Roll?” I understand that Karen O’s outlandish persona and errratic voice make the YYYs different from other alt-rock outfits, but making the kind of songs from Mosquito, such as the queasy “Buried Alive” and the noisy title track, is artistically going in the wrong direction. When Karen O emphatically and brashly yells on “Mosquito,” “We’ll suck your blood! We’ll suck your blood! We’ll suck your blood!,” it becomes too edgy and unconvincing and strongly stresses the topic at hand — not abrasiveness, not feminine dignity, but mosquitos.
For the most part, Mosquito is full of blaring, absurd rock songs that should be eradicated and used for other mediocre alt-rock bands. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs can do a lot better, since they’re already equipped with evocative songwriting, head-banging music, and dignified ethos. Mosquito is a confusing, underwhelming, and incredulous result of the YYYs. But despite this setback, the YYYs have already come so far in the music world, it hardly matters. Though it sounds corny, it’s all about the production, the artistic genuinity, and Karen O boisterously singing her heart out at concerts, even if it concerns the evils of parasites.
Suggested Tracks: “Sacrilege,” “Subway,” “Always,” “Despair,” “Wedding Song”