|Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 29 April 2003|
Another band enjoying the burgeoning success of the New York garage rock resurgence, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs breathe a jolt of irreverence into what might become another mode of music that gets saturated so quickly that we all hope for a quick death. Having played under The Strokes and White Stripes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs truly rode in on the coattails of the garage rock wave but have plausibly carved out their own little niche with their blend of rock and arty-punk hystrionics.
Led by garage rock goddess Karen O, drummer Brian Chase and guitarist Nick Zinner, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs seem less intent on making a statement about their place in the music scene than simply making a statement. O’s vocals are often grating and severe, begging for a listener, something that hearkens back to the days when rock and roll was meant to be an outlet for anger and protest. Too often these days, it is about the same old thing, so recycled that I can’t even tell you what anyone’s songs are about anymore, nor do I care in most cases. I can’t necessarily tell in this case either, but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs make you want to listen. “Rich” and “Date With the Night” start out the album with unabashed, in your face style: fun, utterly unhip and rocking, with O singing at us with sharp, piercing bites of sound. “Date” especially has that night anthem quality to it, the one everyone will be listening to while cruising around trying to decide which bar or club to go to. This is hardcore, sort of an Iggy Pop meets Adam Ant in the twenty-first century deal.
“I got a man who makes me want to kill,” pouring from shrill and mocking rather than angry lips, begins “Man,” another track that has the base sound and sensibility of true garage rock, as do “Tick” and “Pin.” Put these songs together and you’ve got one dangerous lead singer, judging by track title alone. Put the album together and you’ve got a dangerous band.
After shaking the listener and getting us riled up, Fever to Tell changes tactics to a, shall we say, more mature level. “Maps,” an already popular single, changes things up a bit, the closest thing Fever to Tell has to a ballad. Though it suffers from the two-note interchange that marks a lot of garage rock these days, most notably New York neighbors Interpol, it makes up for it with O’s hypnotic cooing and the fun, freewheeling riffs in the second half of the track. This change in tone is kept up in the last two tracks, “Y Control” and “Modern Romance,” which really give an inkling as to the songwriting talents the trio possess.
True to their roots, Fever to Tell was recorded in Brooklyn but then mixed in…London. Oh well, both places have good music oozing out of them. As with many first full albums, the sound here is fairly raw, made more so by the fact that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs actually sound like a garage band. Between the squeaking guitar riffs here and there, O’s piping and a bit too much energetic and unrefined playing, the energy and enthusiasm of a new band comes across but necessarily compromises the overall sound quality. Hopefully some of that will stay, or in one or two albums we’ll all be worrying and complaining that they have become overproduced. Overall, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a bit more garage rock crossed with a bit of punk than some of their more known predecessors and while the sound is rough at the edges, it has an honesty and jolt to it that makes them worth keeping an eye on.