Despite the much-discussed and really pretty terrifying artwork, the lasting impression of ‘Mosquito’ is actually a subdued, introspective album, which is perhaps surprising given the loud, bombastic nature of some of the songs on it. Opener ‘Sacrilege’, the first song to be released from the album, is a sexy, ballsy track, with a hugely catchy hook and a gospel choir. A proper YYYs anthem. Then there’s ‘Area 52’ which is a Stooges-influenced tribute to space, and aliens, and that kind of thing. ‘I wanna be an alien’ snarls Karen O over fuzzy guitars. ‘Mosquito’ is another loud one, with the screamed hook ‘They’ll suck your blood!’
Despite these tracks, the album still feels a little understated. This doesn’t mean the other songs lack interest, in fact, it may be that the (for want of a better word) quieter songs are the ones that stand out the most due to their beauty, with touching lyrics and O’s tender vocals. ‘Subway’ is a beautiful song, a sad tale of lost love crooned over a sample of a rattling subway car. ‘Always’ is a synth drenched delight, again quieter than one might expect from this album, based on its opener.
The slow build-up and almost New Order feel of ‘Despair’, a strangely uplifting ode to, well, despair, make it a definite highlight of the album. This is mirrored by the brooding build-up of the closing track, ‘Wedding Song’, with its moody bass and echoing piano. The guitar on ‘Wedding Song ’are strangely reminiscent of Noah and The Whale’s ‘The First Days of Spring’ and the mood of the track seems, at first to mirror the mood of that album. However the lyrics tell a different tale of devotion and never-ending love. It’s a pretty beautiful track to end the album with.
‘These Paths’ is another more chilled song, with almost house inspired elements. This is another impression of the album, a band experimenting with different sounds. The experimentations, although subtle, are present with the aforementioned ‘These Paths’ dabbling with house inspiration. Or the dub-reggae influence ‘Under The Earth’, with its reverberating vocals. ‘Buried Alive’ is also bit of a surprise, with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem producing and ‘Dr. Octagon’ aka Kool Keith providing a rap. It’s a pleasant surprise though, with Karen O’s drawled vocals and a guitar riff from Nick Zinner that can’t seem to remind me of anything other than The Smith’s ‘What She Said’.
With ‘Mosquito’, Karen O proves once again that she has one of the best voices in the whole of rock. Thanks to her obvious passion, she can go from tender to powerful to screeching with amazing agility and always, always sound amazing. Yeah Yeah Yeahs are finally back with a record which might not instantly grab you (other than ‘Sacrilege’, how can a huge gospel choir not grab you?!), but after a few listens, it may start to grow on you. And so it should, it’s fantastic.