Yeah Yeah Yeahs evolve, fail to rekindle original sound

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With four LPs spread out over a ten year career, I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s simply aren’t ever going to match the raw vitality present throughout their 2003 debut, “Fever to Tell.” While their newest offering, “Mosquito,” is a solid effort and has more haunting melodies than any Yeah Yeah Yeah’s album to date. The band has calmed down quite a bit with age and seem to have matured past the rugged garage rock that initially drew in fans.

“Mosquito” begins with the interesting single “Sacrilege,” a well-produced song that manages to juxtapose a Portishead-esque tribal beat with backing vocals that sound like a gospel choir pelting out Biblical hymns. Lead vocalist, Karen O, hasn’t changed much despite the band’s constantly evolving sound, and on “Sacrilege” she’s at her best, interjecting distorted cries between her brooding verse lines.

The album’s next song, “Subway,” fits more with the theme of the album. It’s slow and downbeat, with the focus on O’s somber crooning, while ending as slowly as it started. Tracks “Under the Earth” and the chilling and introspective “Wedding Song” follow a similar form.

The third song, “Mosquito” is the most accessible track on the album for mainstream audiences with similar tribal drumming as the opening song. It’s easily the album’s catchiest song, and O’s repeating line of “he’ll suck your blood” all but guarantees its appearance on the soundtrack for some vampire romance movie or TV show.

The closest the Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to emulating their punk/garage rock roots is on the song, “Area 52,” but in the context of the rest of the album, it feels thrown in to appeal to fans of the band’s early days.

The highlight of “Mosquito” is the second to last song, “Despair.” It starts out slow, like many of the other tracks, but gradually picks up, coming to a fantastic climax at the end, showcasing what this band is capable of if they would quit genre-hopping in attempts to expand their audience.

As a huge fan of their “Fever to Tell” debut, I’d like to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs try to incorporate more of their old sound into the new material. While many bands change styles over time, it seems like each successive album is a further departure from the garage sound that made me a fan.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have grown up over the past ten years and it shows in “Mosquito.” They’re no longer into providing a shock and awe factor to audience through heavily distorted guitars and sarcastic lyrics. There’s more thought involved in their creative process and less instinct. Without a doubt, “Mosquito” is a solid album.

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