The first priority I established upon entering the crowded blog scene was to focus on music I love and exude all of the positive aspects associated with the art. And while it is not my wish to abandon that approach, there are few bright spots to highlight on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ new single, “Sacrilege.”
Arriving four years after the band’s last studio effort, 2009’s It’s Blitz, “Sacrilege” is the first single from the upcoming album Mosquito. The song starts out promising enough, with lead vocalist Karen O’s voice at its sugary sweetest as she sings, “Fallen for a guy / fell down from the sky” before using her trademark high-pitched yelp to deliver, “Halo, ’round his head.” This back and forth exchange continues throughout the first half of the song, separated by repetitious choruses partly sang, partly yelled. “It’s sacrilege, sacrilege, sacrilege you say.” Meanwhile, bandmates Nick Zinner (guitar, keyboards) and Brian Chase (drums, percussion) lay down a restrained groove that becomes increasingly aggressive and layered as the song progresses.
Those traits are normally a good thing in the trusty hands of the trio, yet I found myself underwhelmed during the first two minutes of the song. Still, I had high hopes of a payoff in the end. However what I received instead was a tired, overused cliche often employed anytime a band incorporates language associated with religion: you guessed it, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Tabernacle Choir! While it worked triumphantly for the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and, to a lesser extent, Madonna’s “Like A Prayer,” I found it to be a cheap, unimaginative ploy that fell flat on the ground the band walks on. I also couldn’t help but think that the song sounded better suited for the introduction to a movie, appropriately enough given Karen O’s recent soundtrack contributions.
A cynic would declare the first indication something was amiss was the Mosquito cover art the band released when announcing the new album. While the quality of their music has often outweighed the sub-par album art, the new cover appears like something you could expect from Green Jelly or Ugly Kid Joe.
Raw, chaotic energy and Karen O’s in your face shrill-sung vocals have always been the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ strong suits. Though utilized to a lesser extent on It’s Blitz, the band managed to deliver a solid product not too far removed from their previous efforts. I am not suggesting that the group shouldn’t evolve, as I never advocate “creating the same album” twice. But the sins of “Sacrilege” and the Mosquito album cover can only be atoned if the rest of the tracks bring forth deliverance. Can I have an amen?