When news dropped this week that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were releasing Mosquito, their first album in four years, fans cheered. When they saw the album art, however, the response was more like, WTF?
Created by South Korean-born animator Beomsik Shimbe Shim (aka Shimbe), the artwork is polarizing, to say the least. A bizarro image of a technicolor, spiky-haired baby being attacked by a giant blood-sucking insect, the art looks like the lovechild of Nirvana’s Nevermind cover and the entire Garbage Pail Kids oeuvre. Intrigued yet unable to tease out the meaning of the whole thing, we sought clarity on the matter from Shimbe.
The concept, he says, is of a greedy boy lured by a giant hairy female mosquito by a yummy jar of toxic green jam. Having taken the bait, the mosquito is seen dragging the helpless boy into the unknown darkness.
"In surreal way, the mosquito’s blood sac is glowing through a blazing backlight and throws the bloody caustic effect on the naked boy," says Shimbe. "Since Karen O wanted the mosquito as a female while the victim is a boy, I considered the mosquito as Karen herself—the female warrior like a rock star. The boy could be anything the Yeah Yeah Yeahs want."
Shimbe says "many old ’70s and ’80s illustrations about children" were creative inspiration, as were scientific images, which somehow makes sense. "I used many science images of mosquitoes, including lots of microscopic photos, to design the mosquito and build the horror."
Aiming to deliver an unusual but powerful image, Shimbe says he tweaked the feeling of old animations into 3-D images, but with a ghoulish twist "so it creates some surreal and nicely irritating mood"—a technique he used in his most recent short film The Wonder Hospital.
In the days since its release, fans’ reaction to the Mosquito cover has shifted from quizzical to queasy. Though, according to Shimbe, the image might become more vivid and in your face. "From the beginning the image was meant to be animated and I’ve been developing the concept into a music video. So I guess people will see the giant and hairy purple mosquito flying soon."
Watch Shimbe’s film The Wonder Hospital here: