Diverse in style and storyline
NYC band embraces stillness in their new album
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Released April 16, 2013
It might be due to my biased pop-oriented ear, but it seems that it’s hard to find a rock band nowadays that maintains the essence of rock music while being original and progressive at the same time. Put some repetitive guitar and percussion sounds together with unrefined lyrics and forced hoarse voices and you’ve got yourself a group of fully-operating contemporary rock band copycats. Nevertheless, there are still a few of them that manage to captivate my attention with their rock-based roots and striking, ever-growing uniqueness. Yeah Yeah Yeahs is one of them.
It has been four years since the release of their fantastic album It’s Blitz, which yielded vigorous and catchy glam-rock singles “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll.” Needless to say, this album pushed Yeah Yeah Yeahs to new heights, where they successfully proved that rock music still exists in its full glory and shine. The album’s songs were pulsating with liveliness, the melodies were refreshing and Karen O’s voice perfectly complemented the band’s new disco-infused rock style. This year, they return with a new album titled Mosquito that takes a detour from this newly built dance-rock path.
While I was expecting Mosquito to be a continuation of the vibrancy showcased on It’s Blitz, the new album settles down into stillness and static storylines that somehow still manage to keep this album alive and structured. Interestingly enough, the stillness is not caused by the music because Mosquito is stylistically their most versatile album so far. From the gospel-influenced track “Sacrilege” and Cuban-beat musical odyssey “Always” to impulsive track “Mosquito” and Anna Calvi-like “Despair,” this album dives into so many different arrangements that it sometimes seems almost desultory. The story themes are just as diverse: love ordeals in “Sacrilege”, alien escapades in “Area 52,” odes to New York City in “Subway” and annual mosquito bite irritations in the album-title track (Karen O is as serious as she can be when she screams “He’ll suck your blood! He’ll suck your blood!”). The new album is doubtlessly far from being boring — it might take you a couple of listens to get into it, but you’ll eventually realize that it’s musically progressive and, most of all, entertaining.
So, what’s missing then? While it is hard to pinpoint the exact issue, something is wrong with the band itself. Some of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ glamour still shines in songs like “Sacrilege” and “Subway,” but their usual spark is missing this time. Karen O’s voice is not as invigorating as before and the entire album’s atmosphere occasionally comes off as exhaustive. Don’t get me wrong though — Mosquito is a good album (the only really terrible and out-of-place track is the rap-rock hybrid “Buried Alive”). Yet, even with the mentioned dynamic tracks, there is still a circulating dose of unnecessary stillness caused by the band. Right now, it’s hard to tell whether this stillness is just an initial phase of what might happen to be a revolutionary style for Yeah Yeah Yeahs, or is a first symptom of the band’s decay.
If you want to hear how the band sounds live, be sure to catch Yeah Yeah Yeahs on May 12, when they will be performing in Boston’s House of Blues.