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Rock Gets Brutal as Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Knife Launch Attack

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Drummer Brian Chase, singer Karen O and guitarist Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The New York trio has released a new studio album that mixes musical styles from rock to roots reggae. Source: Press Here Publicity via Bloomberg

After some four years away, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs looked in danger of needing a new name.

The “Who Who Whos” was looking more appropriate than the original -- which, by the way, isn’t in homage to the Beatles’ “yeah yeah yeah.” The trio is from New York, so you can pronounce it like a disbelieving Brooklyn “yeah, yeah, yeah.” Maybe say it after you’re told the new CD, “Mosquito,” is excellent and worth the wait.

The band returns to its raw roots on the title track. Karen O sounds like Siouxsie Sioux in punk’s heyday as she intones “I’ll suck your blood.” The cover has a nasty picture of a big insect about to do just that to a baby.

The group, now 13 years in the business, has moved away from the dance synths that fired “It’s Blitz.” This time, we get disco, gospel choir and roots reggae. Most of it works superbly. Rating: ****.

“The Terror,” by U.S. experimental rockers the Flaming Lips, also flirts with everything from jazz to psychedelic rock.

Leader Wayne Coyne employs his studio mastery not just to show off. According to a news release, this is an album about life and love. Aren’t they all? The downbeat songs such as “You Are Alone” come close to matching the previous high of “Do You Realize?” Rating: ****.

The man known to his family as William Adams -- and to most of us as -- has been endlessly inventive in his production and writing for the Black Eyed Peas.

This doesn’t always gel when he goes solo, as on “#willpower,” which is propped up by a lot of supporting stars. Friends such as Eva Simons, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus provide vocals on his singles over the past year, all of which are included. Rating: *½.

“Shaking the Habitual,” by Swedish electronic act the Knife, is an over-ambitious 96-minute sprawl. The track “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized” crosses the 19-minute mark and even the single “Full of Fire” lasts for nine. It’s not as catchy as its predecessor, “Silent Shout.” Rating: **.

Phoenix looks set to break out of cult status, having headlined the Coachella Festival in California this month and released “Bankrupt!”

The Frenchmen were long eclipsed by their friends in Daft Punk and Air. They could give the Knife some lessons on economy, packing 10 catchy tracks into 40 minutes. Rating: ***½.

The cover of Nick Cave’s “Push the Sky Away” was branded sexist in some Twitter posts because it shows the fully-clad singer and a naked woman. Cave was quick to point out that the model is his wife and it was part of a magazine fashion shoot.

Now that the fuss has died down, the CD itself can be judged a worthwhile reunion with the Bad Seeds, more considered and less rushed than other recent outings. “Jubilee Street” is Cave’s best song in years. Not all of them are this good. Rating: ***.

What the Stars Mean:
*****      Exceptional
****       Excellent
***        Good
**         Average
*          Poor
(No stars) Worthless

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Lance Esplund on art, Jeremy Gerard on New York theater and Mike Di Paola on preservation.

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