Release Date: Apr 16, 2013
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Ten years in since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' debut LP, frontwoman Karen O is a primal institution – the hipster next door lurching from one emo spectacle to another on bigger stages than anyone expected; she's the Lena Dunham of art punk. Mosquito feels nostalgic for when the YYYs were New York's most thrilling underdogs, and not just because one song begins, "I lost you on the subway car/Got caught without my metro card," and builds a groove on what sounds like the grind of a missed L train. The vibe, shaped partly in New Orleans with longtime crony Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio, is raw, scrappily urban and all over the place.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs have long been characterised as a band that favour style over substance, a view that is mainly based on lead singer Karen O – who is, arguably, among the best front women ever. However, while mainstream success has never been forthcoming, they are easily one of the most interesting and consistent alt-rock bands to come out of the early noughties. In fact, the New York trio have only got better and better with every album since the release of their critically-acclaimed debut, Fever To Tell, in 2003.
2009’s It’s Blitz! was an enchanting flirtation with pop accessibility for our beloved triple-Yeahs, but—let’s face it—we love them so much better when they’re getting their weirdo on. And this fourth album, the devastatingly visceral Mosquito, does indeed find them trawling the more lugubrious recesses of their psyches and sonic proclivities. Dave Sitek’s spectral production haunts the entirety of the record, accommodating explosive forays into such specialties as gothic-metal (“Buried Alive,” with Dr.
People who can’t understand why “Mosquito” is the title track of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ fourth album are thinking too big. Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of the tiniest rock bands of all time. From David Sitek’s pingy production to Nick Zinner’s spiny, waistline-matching guitar doodles to Karen O’s shrieked whispers to communications as frail as “They don’t love you like I love you/ Maps maps maps maps,” this band has always been about filtering a large sound through a tiny, tinny megaphone.
With a sleeve so shocking it looks like it could be a homage to Blink-182, Mosquito is clearly the work of a band who could never be accused of overt seriousness. But it also betrays a punkish ethic – and is as good a summation of the NYC trio as any of their songs. Their fourth album, Mosquito never once pushes the envelope as much as it does on lead single Sacrilege; just when you think they’ve taken their climactic, juddering emotions as far as possible, they go and add a full gospel choir.
In the early 2000s, Yeah Yeah Yeahs opened for the White Stripes and the Strokes, and critics hailed the three bands for leading a garage rock revival. The Stripes are no longer, and the Strokes' latest, Comedown Machine, left plenty to be desired, but Karen O, Brian Chase and Nick Zinner are still putting out music that manages to be consistent while challenging themselves. The New York City trio describe Mosquito as a "Yeah Yeah Yeahs soul record," and their fourth album finds them experimenting with new sounds, most notably with a backing gospel choir on Sacrilege and clanging track noises that serve as percussion on the slow-burning Subway.
With Yeah Yeah Yeahs' last album, 2009's It's Blitz, the NYC trio threatened to abandon everything we've come to know and love about them. A slick stab at mainstream acceptance, with its synth-laden disco melodies, It's Blitz wasn't a failure by any means, just a slightly unnatural step away from their earlier works, which were teeming with raw, dishevelled punk anthems cutting your ears with sharp riffs and Karen O's unearthly growls. Thankfully, their latest, Mosquito, is a return of sorts to their grungy roots.
Longevity wasn't chief among the attributes of the alt-rock bands who emerged at the start of the noughties. Most of them are vanished or – perhaps worse, trudging glumly on in the face of diminishing returns. In fact, only two artists could reasonably claim to be in better shape than they were a decade ago: Jack White and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The latter seem the more surprising survivors, though the people who decried them as style over substance when they first emerged – in the 2006 documentary Kill Your Idols they took a real pasting from the old stalwarts of New York's art-rock scene – might note with satisfaction that the trio are more famous than they are commercially successful.
Say what you will about Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but you can't deny they're consistent. For 13 years, the New York trio has been propelling their double-jointed brand of hyperventilating punk throbs and tender balladry without feeling the need to change tack. Even when they polish up a mainstream sheen, as they did with 2008's It's Blitz!, they're unable to stray from their career-defining blueprint.
Yeah Yeah YeahsMosquito[Interscope; 2013]By Brendan Frank; April 17, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIn nature, the term parasitism is used to describe an interaction between two parties where one benefits from the outcome to the others detriment. This technique is practiced by numerous creatures, including mosquitos. On the other side of the coin, there’s mutualism, which describes an exchange between any number of parties where all are the beneficiaries of the outcome.
Since Fever to Tell, with each album the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have challenged their audience with their changes, and Mosquito is no exception. A 180 from It's Blitz!'s flashy electro sheen, the band's fourth album downplays synths, programmed beats, and other gadgetry in favor of drums, guitars, and a mix of rock and inward-looking ballads that occasionally recalls Show Your Bones. Karen O, Nick Zinner, and Brian Chase reunite with longtime producers David Sitek and Nick Launay -- who were honorary members of the band by this point -- and they take the trio in any direction they want to go.
They’ve always been a mischievous bunch of minxes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. For all the stormy weather Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase have endured over the years, when it comes to putting a song down they never take themselves too seriously. So it’s hard not to wonder if Karen was somehow deliberately trying to wrong-foot the world with the way she’s talked up their fourth album.
The toughest thing about Karen O is how soft she’s willing to be. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman might get your attention by playing the fishnet-ripping, stiletto-kicking punk hero who spits out bravado like warm Pabst Blue Ribbon. But if you stick around long enough, she’ll show you the fragile soul under that costume and let you eavesdrop on a voice that’s so vulnerable, you can hear it cracking.
‘Kick ass party pop with a neat sideline in ballads’ is how I might review the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ fourth album, Mosquito. Or their third album It’s Blitz! Or their self-titled debut EP. Or – and you’re probably getting the picture here - any of their records. This is not to accuse New York’s cutest long-serving indie trio of retreading the same old ground, as each record has been palpably different to its predecessor: Fever To Tell offered bone-rattling art punk; Show Your Bones dipped a toe in the waters of The OC-friendly indie; It’s Blitz! was sort of the electronic record (even if it forgot in the second half).
Yeah Yeah YeahsMosquitoInterscopeRating: 3.5 out of 5 stars Is it possible that it’s been ten years since Yeah Yeah Yeahs broke onto the scene with debut album Fever To Tell and the striking single “Maps?” Maybe it doesn’t seem so long because the New York trio takes its sweet time between albums; their newest release, Mosquito, is just their fourth overall. Could it be that the secret of their longevity is to always keep their fans craving more? The time spent between is usually put to good use, because there’s really no such thing as a casual release by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. While the subject matter of the songs may vary, the tracks themselves are always wonders of intricate construction, sudden force, and unexpected prettiness.
Maybe the opening song is too good. After the widespread acclaim that It’s Blitz received, Mosquito was always going to be a struggle. There’s no doubt that most music lovers will be a little disappointed with Mosquito. It’s Blitz was by no means perfect, but it certainly showed the band moving towards an interesting style.
Thirteen years after the tectonic realignment that unleashed the White Stripes, the Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Stripes are extinct. The Strokes have evolved, swapping the wiry sounds of the mid-1970s for the synthetics of the 80s. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, meanwhile – arguably funnier, sweeter, more luridly coloured and yet, somehow, more punk rock than the rest of their cohort – remain recognisable as the same gang of three, despite drummer Brian Chase's increasing resemblance to a Talmudic scholar and Karen Orzolek's – better known as Karen O – recent shock defection to the peroxide camp.
There's a refrain you often hear about bands running on the sort of quick-burning demon energy that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were channeling in the early part of the last decade: You had to be there. But on rare occasions, a band will make a record so thick with atmosphere that "being there" is just a matter of pushing play. Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 2003 debut, Fever to Tell, is one of those achievements: Even if you didn't make it to one of the infamous early New York shows and have the pleasure of getting your glasses sprinkled with the beery spit of a grinning, lipstick-smeared frontwoman in tattered Christian Joy, the record itself did a commendable job of bottling that experience.
Eleven years removed from their manic, sizzling debut, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have yet to come close to recapturing that initial burst of ragged energy. Not that they've ever really tried, settling for riffs on a subdued version of their initial formula on two marginally successful, decidedly unambitious follow-ups. The long periods of downtime between these albums only furthered the impression of an act running on the fumes of a one-shot legacy, a suspicion that's defied by Mosquito, a messy, forceful expression of creative restlessness.
Karen O is at the end of her rope. ?Free yourself. That leash is long, long, long,? the Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer chants on ?Buried Alive?, a late-album surprise on the band?s fourth studio LP, Mosquito. It?s a statement that implies she?s been given so much slack on the line it?s easy to forget she?s tethered at all.
The greatest trick the Yeah Yeah Yeahs ever pulled was making us believe that they were a rock band. Of course, you wouldn’t believe that listening to their early work. That eponymous EP from 2001 (followed by the gritty Machine EP the following year) showed a fresh young trio that seemed ready to remake CBGB in their own art-punk image, all while riding the brilliant garage-rock wave of the early aughts.
In 2001, Yeah Yeah Yeahs released a 13-minute self-titled EP with a punk song on it called “Art Star. ” In between choruses of guttural howls and cutesy doo doo doo’s, a 22-year-old Karen Orzolek talk-sang in a voice that is now as recognizable as her outfits, “I’ve been working on a piece that speaks of sex and desperation…I got a dealer in Tokyo, I got a rep in Paris, I got an agent in Rome; Shit, I got a gallery in New York!” Though at the time this was in all likelihood a facetious mockery of her peers at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Yeah Yeah Yeahs now have business connections across the globe and it’d be hard to find two nouns to better describe Orzolek’s singing voice. Hell, she’s been asked to be the cover model for Playboy—not that she took it.
Are Yeah Yeah Yeahs the perfect band? Certainly you’d be hard-pressed to find someone – anyone, dead, alive, fictional – better-suited to front-centre stage than Karen O. And it’s her showboating which allows the quiet genius of Nick Zinner to take hold, while the steady presence of Brian Chase keeps the pair, well, grounded.The trio’s self-titled debut EP, released back in 2001, set the scene. There was the coarse punk stomp of ‘Bang’; the brutal screaming and self-parodying wit of ‘Art Star’; the delicate, romantic coos of ‘Our Time’.
Does the reverent gospel choir that flares up on the opening “Sacrilege” need to be there? Probably not, but it’s one of several refreshing diversions on “Mosquito,” the inspired new album by Yeah Yeah Yeahs after a detour into synth-pop on 2009’s “It’s Blitz!” The trio of singer Karen O, guitarist (and Sharon native) Nick Zinner, and drummer Brian Chase don’t quite return to the jagged indie rock that made them stars a decade ago, but instead turn over new stones. The feral wail that Karen O unleashed on early albums has been smoothed out to something more emotive here. She’s forlorn on “Subway,” a wayward ballad that cleverly uses the sound of a train on the tracks as percussion.
Karen O was the undisputed It Girl of the New York rock revival by the time Yeah Yeah Yeahs hit the streets with their first album, Fever To Tell, in 2003. A decade later, after taking four years off between releases, can the Yeahs reclaim their rightful place at the forefront of all things alternative? Well, it helps that the album they dropped before going away was It’s Blitz!, which was kind of awesome. But what ultimately matters is how vital they’ve managed to sound coming off of a break while pushing the experimental envelope in ways that go beyond a guest appearance by Kool Keith as Dr.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have always worn their ambition lightly. You don’t put a giant purple mosquito on the cover of your record if you’re straining to be taken seriously, but at the same time you don’t stage an opera unless you believe you have something to say that can’t be contained in a three-minute pop song. The tensions that define the Yeah Yeah Yeahs—mass appeal vs.
When Yeah Yeah Yeahs landed ten or so years ago, they were a garish, arty, technicolour scrawl of protest against the largely dreary rock & roll revivalism that then held sway. It was hard to keep your eyes or ears off this trio of aural vandals. Their subversive subtext was what made their trashy art-punk so attractive and led to under-the-hand giggles every time debut single 'Bang' was played on the radio with its uncensored lyric: "As a fuck son, you suck." In Karen Orzolek you had a frontwoman who was as cocksure as she was enigmatic.
It’s looking like being a tough year for the few remaining survivors of the New Rock Revolution (tough to believe it actually got called that, isn’t it?). Take the likes of The Strokes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, who’ve returned with albums about which people have only been kind enough to say things on a scale that ranges between indifference and outright derision. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs arrive back on somewhat stronger footing though, knowing that unlike the bands just mentioned, the last record they turned in – 2009 It’s Blitz! – was actually pretty great.