This bloodsucker might be too elusive to squash.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ fourth album, “Mosquito,” is based on places that seep through each song’s chords and key riffs; rain forests with voodoo, shoddy city subways and fiery space stations all serve as backdrops for singer Karen O’s vocals. However, each trip ends so fast that listeners won’t understand the relevance of each setting, and this makes all ideas less impactful.
Song one, “Sacrilege,” arrives, meshes glass-shattering drums with soulful goodness and fades. The lyrics are big and so is the middle break, where a choir screams and Louisiana voodoo casts off in the form of guitar riffs. Song one on each of the band’s three prior albums meant something in regard to what followed.
“I’ll suck your blood,” O repeatedly yells on the title track. The blunt repetition seems strange from a lyricist who often masks meaning under painful similes, but I wouldn’t take much time thinking about recurring themes in “Mosquito.” There aren’t any, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs probably gave the album this name because nothing could sum up its parts better than an insect, darting around forever.
The percussion always grooves with tight bass and guitar—however far other themes wander. “Under the Earth” includes rapturous lines that could filter through the ground’s pores and still be audible. Chimes perfectly follow strings that begin after manic pounding on “Despair.”
Oddly enough, my favorite song, “These Paths,” shows what ails “Mosquito” as a collective.
Branching out and incorporating new genres helps acts stay relevant; The Flaming Lips and Radiohead are top indie bands for this reason. They submerge themselves in innovation, though, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs move from one idea to the next throughout “Mosquito.”
“These Paths” is the best example. There are enough strange woodwinds, piano arpeggios and lyrical themes to last an entire album. When Radiohead experimented with electronica, band members studied different styles and based them in an entire album. Yeah Yeah Yeahs float through each style and drop them after a four-minute song.
On the other hand, there are times pushing dozens of different ideas in and out of songs would be better than the album’s most coherent tracks.
O said in a track-by-track preview that “Subway” is an ode to New York. As miserable and simple as the words are, this doesn’t seem like a compliment, and every aspect seems headed toward the same place: nowhere. “Area 52” shocked me because I assumed corny alien references died with Lil Wayne’s fame. With “I want to be an alien/take me please, oh alien,” O sounds more like Iggy Pop suffocating in space than a sexy songstress.
Still, fans of Atoms for Peace and David Bowie’s recent releases shouldn’t completely pass on the effort.
Individually most of the album’s songs are great, but I’m the album analyzer, and I haven’t heard 11 songs pushed together that are more far apart. Yeah Yeah Yeahs should find radio success this summer with some of the album’s better tracks, and that is the best way to listen to this: sporadically, just the way the band recorded “Mosquito.”
Final Rating: Three out of five suns