While their debut Fever To Tell was a perfect example of a band filtering all their power through the smallest outlet possible, since then Yeah Yeah Yeahs have flirted heavily with indie-rock on the under-appreciated Show Your Bones and full-on Frenched glossy New Wave disco on It’s Blitz! Neither record was any worse for the focus on change but while you could never say they were frail, YYYs had definitely lost some of their needle. The bratty menace of Karen O was tamed and in the process the band blunted what made them so fun in the first place: art-rock drawn with the subtlety of crayons.
Yet again YYYs step away from the last record, only this time it’s a deliberate move back to basics. Sure it’s more expansive, with dub-reggae in particular seeping into the sound, and they haven’t shed all the additions of the last two records but the spirit is all Fever’s. Even the garish album art is just a fuller realisation of that record’s neon doodles. The Cramps at their meanest, Blondie at their horniest and Iggy at his most vampish all inform Karen O here and while it never gets quite as abrasive as Fever that’s no real problem. In fact it would feel awkward to have the band who played ‘Zero’ rolling around on the floor screeching about bad sex again.
Though there is still room for tenderness on ‘Despair’ and ‘Wedding Song’ it is not in keeping with the overall tone as Mosquito concentrates on bringing that cartoony perversion back, all B-Movie blood sucking, boyfriend burying and alien abduction. The buzzing title-track and ‘Slave’ are the band back to their primitive best. The highlight and clearest example of the dub influence ‘Under The Earth’ has Karen burying ‘another lover’ in a spacey romp that’s equal parts Iggy and Lee “Scratch” Perry and, with its gospel choir and drunken soul chorus, ‘Sacrilege’ is an ostentatiously broad-brushed anthem. The only real misstep is ‘Area 52’ which is a little too sloppy in its sci-fi Stooges homage and although ‘Buried Alive’ fits in tonally, even with Dr. Octagon’s goofy verse, it feels flat for a track produced by James Murphy.
Mosquito is rough enough around the edges to maintain its momentum while absorbing the click-clack sound collage of train tracks underneath ‘Subway’, a gospel choir on ‘Sacrilege’, dub-reggae bass throughout and make room for more tender moments. While it’s not as fully realised as they’ve been before, it’s another absorbing album with enough layers to keep scratching at and mainly it’s just good to have them back sneering again.