Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit


Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
10 April 2013, 08:58 Written by Thomas Hannan

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. Of all of their contemporaries, they arguably looked like the ones most likely to be a thrilling flash in the pan, yet have proven remarkably adept at keeping their flame burning.

That success is down to being more open to change than most from the scene can claim to have been, shifting as they have from a punkish rabble to stylish synth troupe via gentle acoustic balladry and a couple of fine, harder-edged EPs for good measure. With Mosquito, they move the goalposts once again, delivering a record that on numerous occasions will have you wondering whether this track, or that one or that one, might just be the least typical Yeah Yeah Yeahs song in their entire arsenal.

The first of these is also the album’s opening number, the initially typically raucous but eventually wholly uncharacteristic ‘Sacrilege’. So much like a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song do the opening two thirds come across that the gospel choir – yeah – who bring things on home sound, on first listen, completely incongruous. Yet eventually, you come to look forward to their arrival. In the same way as happened with Blur’s ‘Tender’, the only surprise in the end is how much it suits them. Even better than hearing a band try things is hearing them succeed at them, and ‘Sacrilege’ strongly suggests you might be in for quite a treat.

The brave choice of putting the decidedly slower ‘Subway’ as a follow up adds weight to that theory. One of the most delicate things the band have ever turned in (placed straight after one of the most bombastic), its lyrical tale of being lost on public transport at night is imbued with an unnerving feeling of “nothing’s wrong here, but it could be, at any minute” that’s ever so nicely reflected in the uncomfortable nature of Nick Zinner’s distant walls of guitar noise. Paired with a starting tune to which it bears no resemblance, it’s a formidable start, making it all the more depressing that Mosquito subsequently thrills only sporadically until the welcome introspection of ‘Wedding Song’ brings it to a close.

The rest of it finds the band either on autopilot or trying things and not succeeding. Songs like the title track, which just seems to describe exactly what a mosquito does (flies about, lands on people, sucks blood) without any kind of metaphor or wordplay, and the similarly to the point paean to alien abduction that is ‘Area 52’ (“I wanna be an alien!”) would perhaps work if the band sounded like they were having their usual fun kicking the shit out of them, but any such joy in performance seems oddly lacking from this disappointingly flat, overcooked record.

In the more experimental camp, things at least get bizarre, if not wholly enjoyable. ‘Slave’ starts with an ill-suited dub-reggae feel only to eventually morph in to some mid-’90s-guitars-with-danceable-beats oddity that actually sounds a bit like Mansun, of all people. ‘Buried Alive’ again addresses the subject of the afterlife that was far better handled in the earlier melodic haze of ‘Under The Earth’, but topical repetition is far from the only quarrel you can have with it – the guest verse midway through from Doctor Octagon (a.k.a. rapper Kool Keith) feels like he’s wandered in on a song he’s never even heard before, and is difficult to stomach without cringing. What’s lacking again is any sense of abandon or humour. Given that Doctor Octagon is after all a character Keith has called an “extraterrestrial time travelling gynaecologist from Jupiter”, you’d really think a duet with him and Karen O would at least be some freaking fun.

Sadly, repeated listens so far have only served to numb its impact rather than reveal to me subtleties that I’d really hoped would come to the fore. With the experiments being so hit and miss you’re left looking for familiar thrills, but even when delivering these, the band sound so much like there are motions to be gone through that you just aren’t inclined to feel engaged. So many songs begin with one line repeated four or more times in place of a proper verse. So many choruses stretch to just one word. So many tracks start promisingly only to tread in their water for around five minutes after. It’s not their most aggressive record, but this is a band who even at their most tender have still packed a punch (‘Maps’ for example sounds like bloody Crass compared to most of Mosquito). What went wrong and where is up to them to find out exactly, but at least we can take solace in remembering that going back to the drawing board is something that has previously brought out the best in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Fingers crossed they visit again soon, with comparable success.

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