Mosquito by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Dress Up, Interscope, 2013. 47 minutes)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs is an indie rock band from New York City consisting of Karen O, Nick Zinner, and Brian Chase. The band has released 4 studio albums, 3 of which have been nominated for Grammys.
Have you ever felt like your significant other is a parasite? Have you experienced those days where you continue to give and he continues to take? Is it frustrating trying to balance the ship? Is it even worth continuing?
Whether you’ve been married for 30 years or have only been dating for a couple months, relationships ebb and flow. Thus, it can be easy to liken relationships to warfare. Someone lives in the ascendency; the other submits. There’s a clash of wills over a topic and everything is falling apart. Maybe there’s a lull before the battle.
Metaphorically, Yeah Yeah Yeahs present that mosquito as the illustration of a fractured relationship. The insect is small and insignificant but it packs a punch. So too are our relationships, in the grand scheme of things.
Mosquito opens with a head-bobbing tune, “Sacrilege.” The song acts as an introduction to the dominant themes of the album. Karen O ponders,
“Fallen for a guy / Who fell down from the sky / Halo round his head / Feathers in our bed / In our bed / It’s sacrilege, sacrilege / Sacrilege you say”
Sonically open and infectious, especially with choral support, the lyrics mimic the music through offering an open-ended representation of a new relationship. Is this lover a good thing or a bad thing? The clear intonation suggests it’s scandalous to take this relational step.
Truer to Yeah Yeah Yeahs aggressive roots, the song, “Mosquito,” elaborates on the nature of this relationship.
“They can see you / But you can’t see them /So are you gonna let them in / They’re hiding beneath your bed / They’re crawling between your legs / They’re stickin ya in your vain / Were you itchin when they call your name”
The tune offers jarring chord structures and in-your-face vocal effects to illustrate the parasitic nature of this relationship. Much like a mosquito pilfering blood unbeknownst to the host, this lover is clearly a problem.
And yet, Mosquito offers elements of hope toward the end of the record.
Despair to New Light
“Despair” might be my favorite song on the album. There’s a level of encouragement in the lyrics:
“Don’t despair / You’re there / From beginning to middle to end / Don’t despair / You’re there through my wasted days / You’re there through my wasted nights”
Presuming the narrative stays consistent through the album, one would assume the subject of this song is the same mosquito-ish and sacrilegious lover from the beginning of the record.
Substituting anthemic music as a replacement for the trance, programmed textures of the early tunes, “Despair” functions as a raison d’être—reason for existence—for the album, especially when Karen O repeats,
“My sun is your sun”
Despair is always there, but we’re getting through it.
After “Despair,” “Wedding Song” resolves the record.
No matter the struggles and no mind to the parasitic moments, people are drawn to each other and find ways to make life together work.
Karen O suggest,
“Some kind of violent bliss / Led me to love like this / One thousand deaths my dear / I’d die without you here / In flames I sleep soundly with angels around me / I lay at your feet you’re the breath that I breathe”
Spanning the Scope of Human Relationship
Mosquito begins in turmoil and concludes with a wedding. It spans the scope of human relationship and its music accents these ideas at every turn. It’s not the most enjoyable record—especially at first listen—but it continues to marinate and grow with time. Our relationships are difficult, rewarding, violent, and serene. That’s why they are so special.
Verdict: 3 out of 5