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A gospel choir, a looped sample of a New York subway carriage, and a tale of alien invasion? That can only mean one thing - the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' fourth release Mosquito, revealed to be their most eclectic album to date. By the band's own admission, the new album is also their most tongue-in-cheek yet. Even so, it has more in common with their earlier work than with the trio's previous venture into the glitzy halls of electropop on It's Blitz!. So can Mosquito really be anything more than a crude caricature of Yeah Yeah Yeahs' early, out of control days?
Maybe so... Certainly, the album is not as aggressive as their Fever To Tell era. Don't let the laidback feel of Mosquito fool you though. Take the passionate opener 'Sacrilege' for instance. Led by a trip-hop drum loop from Brian Chase (did somebody mention Massive Attack?), the song culminates in a chilling contest between Karen Orzolek's rather soulful vocals and a glorious gospel chorus. The choir inevitably wins, but other tracks show Karen's fierce range more openly. This is especially true of the title track, an anarchic song with more weight behind it than one of Karen O's more outlandish stage outfits. Punkish yet tribal, 'Mosquito' is a song of dual personalities.
In fact, that could describe the record as a whole, from the slow dub-inspired 'Under The Earth' to the electroclash free-for-all that is 'Area 52'. The album is somehow drawn together with its garage-style production, true to classic YYYs form. Even the surprising appearance of Dr. Octagon (alter ego of rapper Kool Keith) on 'Buried Alive' does little to distract from the fact that it is a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song. Still, it seems that the varied subject matter is far more distracting than the sometimes unsettling music. The dystopian themes of 'Buried Alive' or 'Area 52' are at odds with the more seductive tracks like 'Subway' and 'Wedding Song'.
We might dismiss this, as the band themselves have done, as 'tongue-in-cheek'. And yes, with such an eclectic album, it is easy to imagine the band conversing after a recording session: 'Well, we've got dubtronica down. Now let's do a post-punk track.' But a calculated melting pot of an album this is not. Mosquito has evolved beyond the collective control of Karen, Nick and Brian, and perhaps that is its strength. From a band whose vocalist was rumoured to have fallen from a stage frantically dancing, expect nothing less.