Fever To Tell
Interscope Records, 2003
REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/17/2004
At first listen, Fever To Tell is no better or worse than any other better-than-average garage band in today's music scene. It's catchy, a bit punk, a bit new wave and a whole lot of pissed-off aggression in its 40 minutes. Much has been said about lead singer Karen O, and while her voice is distinctive, it doesn't have the immediate "knock you on your ass" punch of more accomplished vocalists, such as Bjork or PJ Harvey.
The band is a trio from New York, and the press has poured some heavy praise on them. However, this has happened about once every three weeks for the past two years. And for every decent band like the White Stripes, we have other bands like The Vines and still other bands like The Hives, who are in danger of fading into the discount bins as fast as they came onto the music scene.
Still, none of these bands have Karen O at the helm. She can lay on the playful menacing act in "Rich" and turn around and deliver a heartbreaker in the track "Modern Romance." Nick Zinner does an amazing job balancing between new wave and punk, as does drummer Brian Chase. The more you listen to Fever To Tell, the more you realize that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs may be around after bands like The Vines whither.
Even though Fever To Tell has its moments of artiness, it was one of the best primal rage albums of 2003. Karen O's hyperventilation delivery of "Tick" is hot enough to fog up the horned rimmed glasses of any sexually frustrated indie geek or gal. And with "Black Tongue" Karen O lays down 2003's most epically-fun dis: "Boy you're just a stupid bitch and girl, you're just a no-good dick!"
Other songs don't fare as well. The incestual overtones of "Cold Night" seem to be shock for the sake of shock and "Y Control"'s title is the most creative part of the song. But the band gets Fever To Tell back on the right track with its double-whammy closer and hidden track.
The most popular song, "Maps" is a morose tune that's an odd selection from a band known for their limitless energy. However, it works, especially with Karen O's sad delivery of a line like "they don't love you like I love you." In the same vein, "No No No" shows that a band doesn't have to have its amps cranked to 11 to floor you.
Fever To Tell is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs getting on a roll. It may not be their "defining" album, but it definitely has its moments of greatness. The band is much more than Karen O's presence, but on a song like "Man," she's the voice and image that will linger in listeners ears.