Since late 2002 The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been one of my favorite bands. The early EP’s they put out, along with their first LP, Fever To Tell, opened me up to music I hadn’t really listened to before. Karen O’s screeching vocals and Nick Zinner’s brilliant guitar work pulled me in to the Brooklyn post-punk rock sound. Along with The Strokes and a few others, they made it seem like all the music was coming from one neighborhood on the east coast.
After they started reaching a lot of fans, due in part to the song “Maps” getting fairly heavy MTV and radio play, I thought maybe they’d introduce some of these pop music fans to stuff different from what they’re accustomed to. Instead YYY’s followed up with Show Your Bones, an ok but ultimately disappointing album that leaned much further toward pop. By the time It’s Blitz came out, I was just about done. For all their success, I felt like they were turning their backs on where they came from and I didn’t really like where they were headed.
It’s been just over four years since their last record (though you’d never guess because commercials that use “Heads Will Roll” and “Zero” are on all the time.) I was very happy that they took a break, and in that time I rekindled my love for the early stuff while building up a tolerance to some of the more Glee-tastic songs. Shortly after the announcement of Mosquito, the band released “Sacrilege” as the first single. All of a sudden I was genuinely excited for this record.
From this song I took a lot of hope that Mosquito would be a return to form-and for the most part it is. This isn’t the lo-fi scream fest that Fever To Tell is, but it finds a nice balance between those early tunes and the more polished stuff they had been playing. They go dark a lot here, and that was missing from both Show Your Bones and It’s Blitz. Even though the songs don’t feel as urgent or angry, it feels like they’re written by those same kids from Oberlin College instead of a formula for sales.
“Sacrilege” is a raucous album opener, and then they slow things down with “Subway,” a sparse track all about obsessive anticipation that features the sounds of a train track along with O’s voice and a light guitar riff with an ominous humming at the foundation. The track ends with a long outro with just the train tracks. It’s a bit of a departure for the band, as they generally like to fill up most of the empty spaces.
I was feeling pretty good about how things were going, and the title track “Mosquito” solidified this album as The Yeah Yeah Yeahs of old rising from the ashes. It shares more with “Tick” or “Art Star” than anything on their last two releases, and I couldn’t be happier about that. There’s a ton of percussion going on, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do it live. It should be quite something. It’s been a long time since Karen O screamed like this on record, and the wait has been worth it.
There are some more surprises on the record, like Dr. Octagon’s appearance on “Buried Alive.” At first I was apprehensive about a rap verse on a YYY’s album, but it works much better than I thought it would. And I like the electronic elements in “These Paths.” “Despair” definitely borrows a lot from It’s Blitz, but I don’t mind it. Probably because the songs around “Despair” are much better than the throwaways from that previous record.
Mosquito isn’t a perfect album, but it is very, very good. If you’re like me, and you’ve been waiting for The Yeah Yeah Yeahs to get back to their old ways, you’ll feel quite happy after listening to this. So let’s all welcome them back by picking up the new record when it comes out April 16th (pre-order here).