Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell

Yeah Yeah YeahsFever to Tell (Interscope)

Do they rock? Yeah. Do they roll? Yeah. Are they contagious? Yeah!

This coming from the band that you were just waiting to see crash, burn, and eventually show up on the soundtrack for “American Pie 12.” It’s okay—you weren’t alone. The hype surrounding the Noo Yawk trio must have turned the Vines tomato-red with jealousy; the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had a bidding war, the undiluted adoration of college radio, and a singer who poured beer on herself while screaming out double-take bedroom couplets. But the more the “hip” magazines gushed, the more the assembling backlash pulsated in anticipation. The Yeahs did not seem built to last.

The joke was on you, me, and everyone but them. Fever To Tell is a party, a hangover, a raunchy limerick, a punk rock sonnet. The album is split in the night and day, between feeling no limitations and knowing the bright lights are closing in. Much like any East Village night, the first half goes by far too fast—forget “Pirates of the Caribbean,” this is the most fun you’ll have all summer. (Or had in spring, if you caught its April release.) The formula doesn’t stray far from their debut EP: ribbons of shrieks and whimpers for Karen O., frenetic bar chords for Nick Zinner, and bass-and-cymbals drum heaven for Brian Chase. No one likes the nightlife like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs; the first seven tracks capture the enthusiasm of getting thrills and having plain fun in a way no current jaded, shaggy boy band dares to. Karen also expertly captures the libidos of ironic t-shirt-wearing boys everywhere with promises to “sex you” and lurid recollections of taking boys “standing up”… and that’s the tamer stuff. Hearing a cd of this shimmering energy and youth is better than Oil of Olay—it won’t make you look sixteen, but you’ll feel it.

The second half does an about-face. It exposes the depth purposely bypassed in the first songs; it’s Karen showing you her morning after, the kind of lovelorn despair that qualifies as the real ninth circle of hell. And she knows you’ve been there. She begs you not to go, that the open road is an empty volley from her arms. Her punk trills give way to more melodic belting, and such a drastic change in direction is a fairly easy pill to swallow because the musicianship doesn’t lose intensity and Karen’s vocals retain their unadorned simplicity. She and the boys carry a raucous album into one that explores the vacant grandeur of romance and leaves everyone concerned pining for it nonetheless.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ simple truth is their beauty. The contradiction of the light and dark in their art is what makes it compelling beyond the afterparty. No other album this year will make you want to dance as much or sigh as deeply—or be as glad you did both.

16 thoughts on “Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell”

  1. No offense Stacey, I like the review..but as a fellow music critic (for this site, even), may I please ask never to open a review like that again?

  2. Dude, I saw the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s in DC at the black cat and I’d have to say that Karen O reminded me of a punk Rock Toni Basel. I kept expecting her to shout “HEY MICKEY” at any second. I loved the EP they put out, was really disapointed by machine and was Totally disapointed in the pretentious art wankery of fever to tell. It had none of the immdediate sexiness of the EP and too much of the clangoriousness of Machine Single.

  3. Dude, don’t be a dick Tom4… I REally liked “Fever To Tell” too. It isn’t Bob Dylan but it’s fun. It makes you want to have fun. Don’t look too into it.

  4. 100% agreement! The review really captured the passion of the songs. Karen and Nick made Spin’s Cool List this year. No argument here!

  5. I picked up Fever to Tell a little while ago, and found it really odd, to be honest. I couldn’t put up with it for long.

  6. I don’t usually write after I read reviews but i must say, this was a awesome one. most reviews write Karen O. off as a drunk cheerleader but this is the first one I’ve read that is smart enough to actually UNDERSTAND her music and not just her looks. the writer seems to understand their music is art and pieces on display. karen’s a great singer and she’s showing real emotions in her songs. if you don’t get it, try again cuz they rock.

  7. I know what you mean cuz fuck seemed like a weird ending but the more I listen to it it makes sense. I bet theyre next cd has more like it.

  8. Yeah, I don’t get it. The music isn’t bad and it’s not great. I don’t see much art in the vocals… at least not much that doesn’t bore me to tears. I would describe it as New-York-City-trendy-trash-art for those who say “I wish I could quit my day job” but never really mean it. The kind of people who drink themselves to hell each night and then… off to the office to blame someonelse for how shitty they feel. If this sounds like you, then you’ll dig it (but then again… you probably wouldn’t know). I’d throw down my money on Interpol before spending it on this… but that’s not really saying much.

  9. Karen O just gives me the horn in a big way. her vocals, almost lazy in their application (with obvious exceptions!!) flick switches in my head the whole way through out the duration. the way she slides through “Maps” is worth the 10 bucks alone! Much respect.

  10. I really like the music. It sorta lets you break loose from everyday stress. Its different, yet you feel like you have heard it before. Its a weird feeling, but you sure won’t regret buying this cd. I really liked it and I’m waiting for the next one.

  11. I think Fever To Tell is the greates album ever created. Karen O does not give a fuck about what people say about them or their music. The Yeah’s kick ass 110% I hope they come out with the next album because it would sure as hell suck if they broke up.

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