Old School Reviews: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell

22 07 2007

by mr. travis

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell

Artist: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Album: Fever to Tell
Label: Interscope
Release Date: Apr. 29, 2003

There comes a point, towards the end of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ debut full length Fever to Tell, where the listener has been so bombarded by a string of art punk type tunes with a very similar tempo and mindset that the listener no longer feels anything except the constant bludgeoning of fuzz guitar. And that is precisely the point where the band turns it around and blurts out their (to this point) best song, “Maps,” a slow dirge that is one of the best love songs of the decade. It’s an amazing, borderline brilliant tune that speaks louder to this bands’ ability then the nine previous songs that numbingly tried to sound, well loud.

This is not to say that Fever to Tell is a bad album. Far from it, this is an accomplished debut, playing to the strengths of their previous e.p.’s, but without really moving forward. Which is fine for most bands, except the Yeah Yeah Yeahs came into their major label debut with a large amount of hype. With expectations at a fevered pitch and the garage movement at its peak, it was inevitable that the album would not meet those expectations. At the end of the day, the band has a little more than an e.p.’s worth of songs that are excellent, with the rest falling a little bit short of the benchmark previously set by their first two releases.

But, that e.p.’s worth of songs are well worth the price of admission. Opening with the blistering “Rich”, singer Karen O. declares “I want you to stick it to me,” before growling as into the microphone while a wall of sound explodes courtesy of guitarist Nicholas Zinner and drummer Brian Chase. To listen to Karen O. as she preens away is refreshing: in an age of the blatant misogynism by some of rap and emo’s biggest artists, her blatant sexuality comes across as a strength, something that she uses to full advantage throughout the record. The next song “Date with the Night” takes that to the next level, behind the guitar heroics of Zinner the song builds until the listener becomes exhausted from the heat it gives off.

The album continues without a bump until after the song “Pin.” By now, the songs have begun to segue into each other, the tempo becoming a monotonous drone. Karen O.’s preening has become exhausting; the band’s caterwauling obnoxious. So, when “Maps” begins, it’s a welcome change of pace, even more welcomed by the excellence of the song. “Wait. They don’t love you, like I love you,” says Karen O., as if she is speaking through to the listener, telling them that she’s sorry for the couple of boring songs, now here’s something for you to stick around. And it works. Which is a good thing, for the band follows it up with the also excellent “Y Control,” both tunes signaling the direction would be headed with their next release.

While the band faltered in the middle, keeping Fever to Tell from being an instant classic, there’s something here that hints at the potential greatness of this band. They can’t keep making albums with only a handful of solid songs, but with the greatness of “Maps” and “Y Control” it’s obvious that the band has the songwriting chops to pull off a truly excellent album, one that can match the amount of hype they received with this debut.

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