Listen Up: Wednesday, June 12, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Fever to Tell (Interscope/Universal)

By Brian Abrams

When your lead vocalist sounds like Deborah Harry after inhaling an eight-ball on two days without sleep and looks like Iggy Pop in a B-cup and belly shirt, all while still managing to have sizzling sex appeal, then nothing but good karma can surround you and your band. Two years ago this singer, Karen O, her Brooklyn neighbor Nick Zinner (guitar), and Ohio college bud Brian Chase (drums) formed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and self-produced their first e.p. (self-titled but a.k.a. The Bang!). A debut gig with the White Stripes soon followed, and, at South by Southwest, the YYY’s pretty much blew everyone away with a scorcher of a set. The band’s now with major player Interscope — ah, success.

Don’t let track No. 4 on their second album, Fever to Tell, baffle you for too long. One minute in, Karen O erratically repeats the track’s title at least 40 times: “tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick,” catches her breath, “tick tick tick tick tick tick TICK!” Second verse, same as the first. What’s happening here isn’t some sort of noise-rock trip; it’s a picture of a punk singer poking fun at herself and the frivolous blasts of YYY’s sound that groups like Angry Atom can sometimes take all too seriously.

She mocks again in “Cold Light,” providing wordless vocal cadences (“bom bom bom bom bom bom”) to substitute for a non-existent bass line. Most of us wouldn’t notice their lack of bass, thanks to Zinner’s hyper-electric currents and Karen O’s voluble, expansive range.

But Fever to Tell only bounces off the walls 80 percent of the time. “No No No” conducts itself like an interlude, preceding “Maps,” which enters the realm of dreamy, spacegirl pop that shows a tender side to Karen O and gives her gawkers a chance to wipe their brows. The talent that the YYY’s bring to the table can only trigger a reminder to Interscope’s stagnant rock bands about just how lucky they are to be on the inside looking out.


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