By Melissa Maerz
May 01, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT
Dan Martensen



The toughest thing about Karen O is how soft she’s willing to be. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman might get your attention by playing the fishnet-ripping, stiletto-kicking punk hero who spits out bravado like warm Pabst Blue Ribbon. But if you stick around long enough, she’ll show you the fragile soul under that costume and let you eavesdrop on a voice that’s so vulnerable, you can hear it cracking. Mosquito, the trio’s fourth album in a decade, is a return of sorts to the raw-power sound of their early years, and in many ways it comes off like an album by a much younger band. That’s a good thing — and a bad thing. It’s a messy, rock-out-in-the-garage record, and there’s energy to spare on the gospel-disco rave-up ”Sacrilege.” But there are too many half-formed ideas and failed experiments here. When Dr. Octagon (a.k.a. Kool Keith) raps on the gothic ”Buried Alive,” he sounds like he just stumbled into the wrong basement party. If the music doesn’t move you, though, Karen O will. The dramatic, Cure-inspired ”Wedding Song” makes it clear that she feels everything as deeply at 34 as she did in her early 20s; she allows every emotion to come through with such dare-you-not-to-care ferocity, it feels like an act of defiance. And she’s heartbreaking on ”Subway,” which finds her standing by the tracks, singing quietly to herself, while the train carries the man she loves away. (You can actually hear it passing her by.) Suddenly this tough girl sounds like she might cry. But if she did, you know she’d just wear her smeared mascara like war paint. B-

Best Tracks
”Sacrilege” An Art-rock scorcher that an atheist could love
”Subway” An ode to underground romance


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  • Mosquito