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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Yeah Yeah Yeahs slow down

 
 

It’s been a long 10 years since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs first broke out from the basements of New York clubs on the back of their debut album “Fever to Tell.” Since their emergence, they’ve headlined festivals, gone a little dance-rock and even saw their charismatic front woman, Karen O, score a trippy film based on the children’s book, “Where the Wild Things Are.” Through it all, they managed to maintain a fairly solid sense of identity as a band known for their intense volume, with the occasional flash of quiet sweetness embedded in the noise. With the release of their new album, “Mosquito,” however, this identity seems to be a bit in flux.
Somewhat disappointingly, “Mosquito” is not a return to the grungy trash-pop of the band’s first album. Instead the band decided to combine everything they’ve learned from their first three albums and throw in some oddball instrumentation from genres (gospel, hair metal) no sensible person would have associated with the trio before.
This direction is apparent from the beginning with the first single “Sacrilege,” which drops a full gospel choir into the song’s final third. There’s plenty of energy to be found on “Mosquito” (as if Karen O could ever be boring), but none of the other tracks are as stirring and anthemic.
The band does come close a few times. “Slave” strikes a balance between guitarist Nick Zinner’s crunchy distortion on “Fever to Tell” and the danceable beats on “It’s Blitz.” Other attempts like “Area 52” and the album’s title track channel the manic energy Karen displays onstage, but never manages to overcome weak choruses or the sense of goofiness that overwhelms both tracks.
Funny thing is, with all the noise and energy and downright silliness in “Mosquito,” the album’s best moments are the more deliberate ones, some of which demonstrate the band’s evolving use of synths and samples. “Subway” uses a grainy snippet of a train car clacking on tracks for percussion, then fills the rest of the song’s space with slow-building synth’s and Karen singing in her best near-whisper voice.
Album closer “Wedding Song” is a high point too, a shimmery love song set against the sound of seagulls, apparently written for Karen O’s wedding, with propulsive kick drumming and understated guitar. It’s a song every bit as tender as the band’s revered ballad “Maps,” and almost as memorable.
The decade since the band’s breakout has been kind to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but it has slowed them down a little. Karen O and the gang may still be breaking hearts, bursting eardrums and generally freaking everyone out on stage, but in the studio it’s their sensitive side that’s beginning to show the most staying power.

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