YEAH YEAH YEAHS – ” Fever To Tell ” 15th Anniversary Exclusive Deluxe Box Set

Posted: December 27, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Yeah Yeah Yeahs Fever To Tell

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s  announced details of a vinyl reissue of their seminal, ground-breaking debut, “Fever To Tell”, through Interscope Records / UMe. Of all the bands that emerged from the beer-soaked basements of New York City’s music scene at the turn of the 21st Century, Yeah Yeah Yeahs were by far the most compelling. A trio of art school misfits, Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase flouted the conventions of indie rock and, with their debut album, “Fever To Tell”, brought a sense of fun and urgency to the quickly calcifying garage-rock revival.

Speaking about the release, the New York trio said, “A friend of a friend kept asking if we were ever gonna put Fever To Tell out on vinyl as it hasn’t been on vinyl in 10 years. That’s not right. So here it is on vinyl for the first time in 10 years plus a time capsule of photos, demos (1st ever recorded,) a mini film documenting our near downfall and other fun memorabilia, from the turn of the century NYC, made with love + the usual blood, sweat + tears of Yeah Yeah Yeahs.”

One of the finest debut albums of recent times, “Fever To Tell” was released in 2003 and was influential in shaping the sound of the early aughts and beyond. Prior to its release, Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase had already established themselves as a ferocious live force; Fever To Tell introduced a band who could play thrilling and frenetic rock’n’roll one minute and captivating, hushed ballads the next. Its meld of scuzzy riffs, angular grooves and hypnotic hooks set a template that was often imitated over the next decade but the album’s rare chemistry isn’t easily replicated. It’s a snapshot of an era that sounds just as mesmerizing as it enters its 15th anniversary in 2018.

Both the band and album were a product of a specific time and place. Rising out of the ashes of a post-9/11 New York, Yeah Yeah Yeahs embodied the hedonism and debauchery of the nightlife scene, when people were looking for release. Riding a wave of critical buzz from their first two EPs, the group set about shedding the “garage-rock” label and channelling the energy of their live shows into a fully-formed, genre-defying debut album that more than lived up to the hype. Released on 29 April 2003, Fever To Tell signalled what the future of rock would sound like.

Much of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ outsider status came from their art school sensibilities. Karen O and Brian Chase met at Oberlin college, while Nick Zinner matriculated at Bard before they all decamped to New York and enmeshed themselves in the mythologised Brooklyn underground scene, playing warehouses and crumbling lofts before opening for likes of The White Stripes. But while Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a product of New York, they got their first brush with fame overseas, playing headlining shows in the UK and creating pandemonium wherever they went, before even releasing their debut album in the States.

At the time of the album’s release, Brooklyn was a just a blip on the radar as far as the mainstream was concerned, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs were battling Clear Channel’s chokehold of the charts, dominated by Linkin Park, Creed, Nickelback and the rest of their ilk. As its title suggests, Fever To Tell has a wild sense of urgency to it; it burns red-hot and rarely lets up – who knows if there will even be tomorrow? For now, you have a date with the night.

Fever To Tell opens with the No Wave punch of ‘Rich’, a blast of snares, thrashing guitars and Karen’s guttural shrieks, making it clear they weren’t messing around. There’s also a layer of synths, so the track “could in no way be mistaken for a garage track”, said Karen.

Outside the album’s sonic outlier, ‘Maps’, ‘Date With The Night’ is Fever To Tell’s most brilliant cut, a stomping rocker that morphs from punk anthem to a sweaty dancefloor number, punctuated by Karen’s orgasmic trills. By the time it’s over, it feels like you’ve survived a bender with the band.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Fever To Tell: Exclusive Deluxe Box Set

Birthed in the New York tradition, Yeah Yeah Yeahs represented a sum of the city’s musical parts, from No Wave to art-rock, post-punk to brash pop. Fever To Tell also predicted the next wave to come out of NYC: dance-rock, something their groove-laden debut helped set into motion. You can’t listen to the scuzzy, wailing guitars, bouncy percussion and enticing synth line of ‘Y Control’ without walk-walk-walking your butt to the dancefloor, the city’s cabaret laws be damned. At centre of all this hype was the band’s fearless leader, Karen O. Dubbed the female Iggy Pop, for her wild stage antics and lack of self-preservation, Karen O is the album’s emotional lightning rod.

Along with inspiring a generation of rock frontwomen Karen O is also to blame for every girl in Brooklyn with a Beatles bowl cut. That said, she was untouchable on stage, and she brings her beer-swelling, world-conquering swagger to the album. From her man-eating grin on ‘Man’ to her lusty “uh-huhs’ on ‘Black Tongue’ and frenzied shrieks on ‘Tick’, Karen O doesn’t do the detached, post-punk flat vocal delivery; she works every word, demanding you listen.

Sometimes, however, her punk tendencies ran the risk of overshadowing her actual vocal performances. She only drops her guard towards the end of Fever To Tell, with ‘Modern Romance’, the Velvet Underground-inspired ‘Poor Song’ and Maps’.

Fever To Tell wasn’t all just piss and vinegar, though. It also birthed the band’s most beautiful song: ‘Maps’, a vulnerable, lovelorn ballad that’s as devasting as the rest of the album is frenetic.

The intro to ‘Maps’ has become one of the most recognisable in rock music history. It starts out spare and sweet, before Zinner fully unleashes his guitar at the end, creating an immortal, indie-rock ballad for the hipster generation.

“Those f__king weird art-project kids wrote a beautiful hit, and it went global,” said Vice Media co-founder Suroosh Alvi in Lizzie Goodman’s excellent oral history of the scene, Meet Me In The Bathroom. ‘Maps’ not only put Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the map, but planted a flag for the Brooklyn scene they came from.

What also set Yeah Yeah Yeahs apart from their Pabst-drinking peers and the punk revivalists is the dynamic guitar work of Nick Zinner and the percussive assault of Brian Chase. Zinner’s idiosyncratic technique and his producer’s ear more than made up for the fact the band had no bassist: listen to the thrashing fervour and guitar stabs of ‘Pin’, the monster blues riffs on ‘Black Tongue’ and the crashing cymbals of ‘Cold Light’, and Fever To Tell makes one thing abundantly clear: Yeah Yeah Yeahs are their own power trio.

Comments
  1. This album was a milestone for me at the time. The Strokes I could take or leave but YYYs were the real deal Man.

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