With Mosquito, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs finally deliver the raw-boned art-punk rebel-rock classic they've been threatening for years. Where previous releases have tilted towards attitude rather than substance, here their trash aesthetic is harnessed to brutally effective backing tracks that nod to the usual-suspect influences but take off in unexpected directions.
The opener “Sacrilege” is simply tremendous, a limber, striding groove akin to Can, with sparse guitar fills and a spindly hook building relentlessly to a thrilling finale in which banked gospel vocals back up Karen O's contention that her love for “a guy, fell down from the sky” is “sacrilege, insane”.
The alien invasion theme is taken up later by “Area 52”, a gloss on the Stooges' “I Wanna Be Your Dog” here celebrating the alien takeover of earth: “Let it go, had your day, let 'em take your kids away,” she advises, adapting the classic hookline to chant “I wanna be your alien”. It's stupidly effective. “Mosquito” and “Slave” both employ tribal tom-tom stompbeats to carry their slashing guitars and sneering vocals, while a rolling tube-train rhythm sample lends an air of quiet menace to the looming keyboard pad and lost-child vocal of “Subway”.
Elsewhere, another morbid theme links “Under the Earth” and “Buried Alive”, a pair of noir-ish dub-house grooves featuring loping basslines and juddering echo delay; but the horror-movie silliness is swiftly dispelled by the lovely “Always”, in which Karen O's yearning pop vocal combines with the spartan rhythmic pulse and elevating high synth tone in a manner that recalls the romantic perfection of Suicide's “Dream Baby Dream”. The electronic motor grooves once employed by Suicide also inform “Despair”, a hymn of regret for “all of my wasted years”.
The album ends on a charming, sincere note with “Wedding Song”, an unambiguously devotional piece whose poignant melody and steady heartbeat pulse echoes the sombre beauty of Joy Division's “Atmosphere”. But crucially, as throughout the album, not in a way that belittles either band. An unexpected delight.
Download: Sacrilege; Always; Despair; Wedding Song