Yeah Yeah Yeahs came about during the early-2000s garage rock revival, when bands like The Strokes and The White Stripes were changing music as we know it, still early on in the digital age of music. I don’t think that’s a stretch or hyperbolic by any means. iPods were still only two years old when Fever To Tell was released in 2003.
The New York City-based Yeah Yeah Yeahs are an “art rock” or “art punk” band (whatever that means) with primordial sensibilities, raw/angular guitar work by Nick Zinner (of Head Wound City fame! Long live HWC) and pseudo-sexual vocals by lead singer Karen O.
At the onset of this project, I knew I’d be listening to some throwback stuff, and this is one of them. I don’t recall listening to all of Fever To Tell in what feels like a half decade. I normally hit up “Date with the Night” and call it a day, but this listen through gave me new respect for “No No No” – which is the very essence of this project.
“Maps” garnered some critical success during that time period, but I feel it’s the least representative song of the band here. Yeah Yeah Yeahs are at their best when keeping things different: a track like “Tick” for example.
Sure, I see the appeal behind the song. It’s far more easy to digest than, I don’t know, “Rich” – but “Maps” is too conventional and straightforward for a band that doesn’t have to try hard to be outrageous (see: Karen O’s wardrobe). The good news here is that they follow it with one of their best songs, “Y-Control.” Whether that’s an intentional middle finger to record label execs courting the band to move a few units remains to be seen (but probably).
Fever To Tell closes with “Yeah! New York” which could have been an early version title of an Andrew WK song.
The primary criticism that I’ve read of this band is that they “try too hard” to be different. I find that claim to be baseless. Whatever you believe about the aesthetic of the band, Fever To Tell was an important hallmark for the garage rock revival, and has held up well over time.
My ultimate regret with Yeah Yeah Yeahs is not seeing them live the one chance I did back when Myspace was doing their “secret” free shows. They played at State Theatre in St. Petersburg, my favorite venue in all of the country, and for whatever reason that I can’t recall now (but I’m sure was something trivial like working), I couldn’t go. I commend Myspace for trying to do something different with their free concert series – State Theatre and St. Pete also saw Underoath come through for a home show (ironically enough, I didn’t go to that one either – real bummed then too).
Standout tracks: “Date with the Night” and “Y-Control”
Weakest track: “Maps” – snoozer.
RIYL: Indie rock, art punk, garage rock. The Strokes, Head Wound City, Deerhoof.