Thursday, 18 April 2013

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito


Four years on, and I still cannot comprehend just how great a music year 2009 was. From Animal Collective's opus of electronically-fueled psychedelic pop, to Mew's cheerily uplifting twenty-word titled release, to Phoenix's simple-but-effective pop-rock outing. A year that found the likes of The xx, Sunn O))) and The Antlers among many, measured by both their fans and haters alike. It was a year that saw too the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs being elevated from interesting pop-rock three-some, to universally acclaimed leaders in the young role-call of current trend-setting synth-pop acts. It's Blitz! much like its memorable album cover (an egg being crushed by someone's hand! who'd have thought of that, eh?), Yeah's third outing was a liberating, memorable showcasing of synthesized music played by organic beings, for organic beings. And as much as it further opened up the possibilities to emotional narration and discovery of thought, Yeah Yeah Yeah's had unfortunately climbed such a high cliff in success, it seemed the only way to progress was the almighty drop directly beneath them. Well, the supposed drop quality-wise may arguably be left to the album cover (and the animated gif to accompany it doesn't necessarily help in defining any reason) and four years wait only adds speculating paranoia to what the US three-piece will offer on album four. Mosquito may be one of those hidden agenda moments however; maybe too it's a red-herring, in as much the same way It's Blitz! was, so as to surprise us with unparalleled excellence. Without question, this will be an interesting discovery to make, and a question I will gladly volunteer to answer.

Straight into Sacrilege, and you can tell that Yeahs have ran themselves at a tangent once more to how the album appears to direct itself. Vocalist Karen O is both minimally set into the groove of guitars as she is bold in her lo-fi bellows. The music itself is leaning more to a cosy funk; sprung guitar plucks and fuzzed bass lines coasting aside ravish drums and a production that later draws emphasis on the chanted noise of backing voices and guitar relay pinging through. Subway however, embraces the minimal idealism with perhaps a little too much hesitance in reaching out, probably out of fear for over-stepping the imagined mark. Unfortunately, with what little resources the track offers - a moody bass guitar, a backdrop of vehicle carriages, a delicate pour of keys, it's not enough to really make vocalist voice sound as effective as it's trying to asatain. Even the slight reverb usage and sweeping echo of keys doesn't necessarily constitute enough of a source to give this track some life or even emotion, and it ends up not necessarily progressing as well to its fairly slow-wavered end.

The title track, however, welcomes back the energetic folly of rock aesthetics of previous albums. The grazed guitar chords, the heavy texture of percussion, the gallant riffs that run and ride through. Arguably there's not enough of a connection and latency to work together as tracks on proceeding records have presented, but the sounds and slightly-less chemically stable atmosphere coming off here is without question an interesting take. So while I understand the need to work from the base up, and perhaps work to more the stripped shell of ideas, in this less-is-more teaser the band focus on, tracks like Under The Earth don't really offer much past the patched foundation of bass strings, electronic dilly-dallying and vocal layers that feel tagged on, as if to save the track from sounding too minimalist. And it's that minimal-but-not-too-minimal indecision, that comes to plague the foundation for most of Yeahs' ideas here. In much the same context, Slave never really comes across as wanting to truly divulge itself in the band's initial interest in more meshed, ground-up production of rock. While the music split up does leave the spectacle open to becoming a fairly enjoyable pop-rock exercise in exciting as much as it is inviting - guitar leads working a treat to the head-swaying rhythm of drums - it's only until the final third do we truly see some development paying off. For the most part, there's really not enough conviction in the song's progression.

Tracks like this also sum up one of the main pointers regarding why the record at times is difficult to even get through without having your ears pointing audibly in two different directions. There's something regarding the actual production and decision-making that suggests there's been less time spent on deciding which two out of the vocals or the instrumentation (the lead instrumentals especially) take precedence. In the worst case, the music can come off sloppy and tattered with indecisiveness. And given the emphasis, at times, is on minimal deliverance and a less-diverse array of sounds, the problem only worsens. It's nice to see These Paths shows the band haven't forgotten that their skill in synthesized rhythms and repetition hasn't been forgotten. The thinly-stripped, crisp percussion makes for some interesting contrast against the whirling, more playful loosening of keys. The bass guitar too adds some dizzying charm to what is a less-stridden piece, but I would have preferred had the band refrained from including so much clouded filler in-between the instrumentation. But even when the synths are completely removed, and the ideas are one of balls-to-the-wall garage rock - as is the case with Area 52 - the band succeed in how care-free the music comes off as. Yes, there is some apparent overcompensation for reverb and relaying of these guitar and drum executions, but it's nothing that takes away from the sheer strength and intensity of the tones.

The best moments here then, are those that combine the accessibility of the trio's sounds with an execution that measures itself on both progress as well as execution. Despair from the start manages to create an interesting geographic of something perhaps visualized as the outback or the smokey, dusty stretch of the wastelands. But in it, Karen O's hopeful, charming tinge of vocals gives the streak of guitar feedback and bass strings a casting of colour and personality. Because of it, the later ride-off of louder guitar strums and percussion, feels ever the more compelling and rewarding. Wedding Song's final stretch draws as much from the same ambition for scope and for sequencing, as it does with lifting one's self from the bowls of what has (unfortunately here) been a fairly puzzling relaying of emotion. So while we aptly recognize the same manner of slow, scene-setting loosening of bass - piano adding to the mix - Yeahs' execution later on is more liberating and fixed squarely on the emotion of the piece as opposed to simply its foundation or its structure. Because of this - fueled on by the music's eye-squinting glimpse into the distance, and its reaching-out delivery - the idea of stripping one's sound to only a handful of instruments (as well as evident inclusion of effects and layer-heavy production) finally lands the band the sound they've been attempting to capture from the very start.

Had the later offerings on this, Yeah Yeah Yeah's once-again clear interest in diverging their sound, offered little more than pleasantries of individual ideas and sketchy deliveries of instruments, I perhaps would have been less convinced by the idea of continuing to expand. Fortunately, Mosquito isn't a completely failed attempt at this stripping-back physically and manifesting in a much denser and heavier ambition. I will say that the previous buzz of directness and instigation on the listener's mood is in shorter supply here. To consolidate that, the emotion feels more hidden and mixed into and within the music. The synths too are in shorter supply, which will definitely upset fans of the trio's 2009 effort. But for those devoted for the sounds touched upon on earlier recordings, there's more an attempt to push that sub-field further, even if the ideas aren't entirely focused on the instrumentation. Should Yeah Yeah Yeahs find a way of culminating their daring forays into synth-pop with their more garage-tussled rock ideas, it'll be a venture I can see possibly pleasing both parties of rock and synth alike. Mosquito, for the meantime, is transparently clear as to how testing and, at times, cautious it is in really developing itself. And this itself not only affects the ways in which ideas transpire, but too comes into affecting the band's own musical identity collectively.
~Jordan

6.4

No comments:

Post a Comment