Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Fever to Tell

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On their EPs, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs grew considerably, moving from the arty yet anthemic garage punk of their self-titled EP to Machine's angular urgency. Fever to Tell, their first full-length and major-label debut, also shows growth, but for the first time the band doesn't sound completely in control of the proceedings. Their EPs were masterful studies in contrast and economy, balancing just the right amounts of noise, melody, chaos, and structure within 15 to 20 minutes. At 37 minutes long, Fever to Tell sounds, at different times, scattered and monotonous. Most of this is due to poor sequencing -- the album opens with some of the raunchiest noise the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have ever recorded, then abruptly changes gears and delivers a kitchen sink's worth of pretty ballads and experimental pieces. Both the old and new sides of the band's sound offer brilliant and frustrating moments: "Rich" is a sneering sugar-mommy story; "Black Tongue," which features the great lyric "let's do this like a prison break," is almost Hasil Adkins-esque in its screwed-up sexuality and rockabilly licks. "Date with the Night," a rattling, screeching joy ride of a song, combines Karen O's unearthly vocals, Nick Zinner's ever-expanding guitar prowess, and Brian Chase's powerful drumming in dynamic ways. Not so good are the insanely noisy "Man" and "Tick," which have enough volume and attitude to make the Kills and Jon Spencer turn pale, but also sound like they're coasting on those qualities. The moody, romantic songs on Fever to Tell are the most genuine. "Pin" and "Y Control" have a bittersweet bounciness, while the unabashedly gorgeous, sentimental "Maps" is not only among the band's finest work but one of the best indie/punk love songs in a long, long time. Along with "Modern Romance," a pretty but vaguely sinister meditation on the lack thereof, these songs compensate for some of Fever to Tell's missteps (such as "No No No," a lengthy, halting mishmash of punk and dubby experimentalism). Perhaps they should've included some of their tried-and-tested songs from their EPs, but for a group this mercurial, that would probably be stagnation. Though this is their debut album, Fever to Tell almost feels like a transitional release; they're already rethinking their sound in radical ways. Even when they're uneven, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are still an exciting band.

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