3.5 stars (out of 4)
A decade ago, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played it terse and trashy. Vocalist Karen O yelped and doused herself and her fans in beer at concerts, and guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase bashed away. All of which made the band a loose fit in the emergent New York City garage-rock scene spearheaded by the Strokes. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs seemed to be in it for kicks, but they also delivered emotional knockout punches like “Maps” that suggested they had staying power.
Now, on its fourth album, “Mosquito” (Interscope), the trio has evolved into an arty pop band, and a terrific one. The songs blend styles, subvert formula, tinker with different approaches to percussion, sublimate the guitars, build up the atmosphere, and work the mood as much as the melody. It’s not as instantly inviting as the band’s previous album, the 2009 dance-infused “It’s Blitz!” But hang with it, and there is an intelligence and seductiveness at work that makes “Mosquito” a worthy progression.
Production from Nick Launay, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek works across a rich spectrum: the big, anthemic gospel flourishes of “Sacrilege,” the dub-reggae undertow of “Under the Earth,” the lost-in-space psychedelia of “Slave,” the electronic glitchiness of “These Paths.” With a couple of noisy exceptions – the tribal rave-up “Mosquito” and the spiky “Area 52” – the album isn’t aiming for cheap thrills. Instead, the payoff is the trio of reveries that closes the album: “Always,” “Despair” and “Wedding Song” build on the disarming vulnerability of “Maps,” and deepen it.