Yeah, Yeah, Maybe
Christine Anspach | Thursday, April 18, 2013
By CHRISTINE ANSPACH
You know how sometimes, when you eat a piece of cake, the frosting is really, really delicious, but the cake itself is kind of average or dry? That’s how I felt about the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s newest album, “Mosquito.” After waiting over a month and four years, playing their three previous studio albums and numerous EPs over and over again, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some new YYY songs. They released their first single off the album, “Sacrilege,” about a month and a half ago, a fantastic song true to their rebel-rock sound that showed promise of a great new album. I couldn’t stop playing that song – or rather, blasting it in my room – and I’m sure the girls who live in my hallway can attest to that.
But, when I finally sat down to listen to the rest of their album, I felt like the majority of the album didn’t play up to what I had anticipated. Maybe my expectations were too high; their last album, “It’s Blitz!,” was an experimental musical masterpiece – one of those albums that you can listen to all the way through without getting bored.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a few really excellent songs, especially on the deluxe version of the album. “Sacrilege” has the classic YYY sound, and seems as if it should belong on their first album, “Fever to Tell,” right behind singles “Pin”and “Y Control.” However, it has a slight twist – they included a gospel choir towards the end, an addition that Karen O and her bandmates, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase, had argued over. It adds a nice, original element to the song, blending in almost seamlessly. I hadn’t even realized that it was an actual gospel choir until I watched an interview with the YYY.
One of my favorites is “Subway,” a slow and gentle track that sounds like it’s the epilogue to “Little Shadow” from “It’s Blitz!” Karen O sings in her gentle, ethereal voice, which is a nice contrast to her usual rock-screamed lyrics. The demo version, labeled “Subway (NOLA Demo)” on the deluxe version of the album, is probably my ultimate favorite song on their track list. It’s raw and gentle, and sounds like it would if it were performed live.
Next on the track list is “Mosquito” – and yes, the song is actually about mosquitos. Here, they fully embrace their artistic license with lyrics like “They’ll suck your blood” and “Mosquito land on your neck / Mosquito drink whatever’s left”. The persistent bass drum loop gets stale after a while; maybe I’ll warm up to the song once I see Karen O shaking her newly-colored electric blond hair as she hums mosquito sounds into the microphone on stage.
“Under the Earth” has an original sound instruments not typically featured by the YYY, including some kind of wind chime. Despite the unusual sound, the lyrics are a particular highlight, as Karen O displays her wide vocal range.
The next track, “Slave,” almost sounds like a reggae song at first; it’s more subdued with a prominent bass guitar loop, but what it lacks in lyrics it makes up for with guitar variations.
The most original-sounding song on the album, “These Paths,” is an electro-pop ballad that at first almost sounds like a track from The Knife, but unmistakably belongs to the YYY as soon as Karen’s voice chimes in. Its different sound comes mainly from the inclusion of more synthesizer and less guitar; another unusual element is an autotune-edited version of Karen O’s voice at the end, which sounds like the eerie voice mixing used prominently by Purity Ring.
The most raw-sounding track on the album, “Area 52,” sounds like it were being played live. It has a fresh, rebel-rock vibe similar to the song”Phenomena” on their second album, “Show Me Your Bones,” but with weirder lyrics (“Take me as your prisoner / I wanna be an alien / Take me please, oh alien”) on loop.
“Buried Alive” includes an element completely new to the YYY: a rap solo, performed by Dr. Octagon. At first it sounds a bit out of place next to Karen O’s vocals, but ultimately produces a nice contrast between his deep, smooth voice and the subdued guitar features.
“Always” sounds like something out of the 80’s or like it belongs on a trip-hop playlist, with synthesizer drags and sharp taps. Although a bit unusual, it’s nice to hear them experimenting with new sounds.
“Despair” is another classic-sounding YYY song, sounding similar to the song “Cheated Hearts” on their album “Show Your Bones.” The acoustic version on the deluxe version is a particular highlight of the track list, which sounds almost more like a folk song than a rock song, in a good way.
Finally, the last song on the album, “Wedding Song,” ends the album on a high point. The track is reflective, slow and dreamy, similar to the songs “Runaway” and “Little Shadow” on “It’s Blitz!” It ends gently with the soft strumming of a guitar, leaving us to wonder when the YYY will, hopefully, release another album.
Over all, tracks like “Subway,” “Sacrilege” and “Wedding Song” are the top highlights of the album, along with some of the acoustic and demo songs included on the deluxe version of the album. However, the rest of the album is largely experimental, which makes for an interesting album that fails to live up to the high expectations I had set for the album.
Contact Christine Anspach at firstname.lastname@example.org