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Yeah Yeah Yeahs - ''Fever To Tell''
(Monday April 28, 2003 4:30 PM )

Released on 28/04/2003
Label: Dress Up

Feeling hot, itchy, sweating a little, mouth dry, vision blurring slightly, feel like you're on the edge of either howling with pleasure or collapsing in a sodden heap?

Here, step into this quarantine area packed with the many other sufferers of SAKODS - that's Suddenly Acquired Karen O Devotion Syndrome. Don't worry, this fever is entirely normal. We experienced these exact symptoms with PJ Harvey-itis. Take this debut album, once every four hours, not exceeding more than six times in 24 hours. It'll sort you out in no time.

Why are we swooning so hard for Karen O? You might as well ask why do fools fall in love? Feral, ferocious, hugely sexual, brilliantly funny, a slave to her many instincts and desires, a hair's breadth away from blurting out exactly what she thinks, no matter what, O is hypnotic, compelling, a rag-doll of sheer personality unstitching herself before your very eyes. You will think of Polly Jean, of Patti Smith, of Siouxsie Sioux even, of Chrissie Hynde, of dripping sensuality and impatient physicality, but the woman's still a one-off, utterly unique, the brightest (proper sense) superstar we have right now.

It's telling that the Yeahs share a line-up, in essence, with The White Stripes. Guitar, drums, voice. You can't hide in that set up, can't bury yourself in artifice and distraction. Only strength of personality and talent will win through. The majority of 'Fever To Tell' is stripped back and corrosive, art punk colliding head on with garage rock, no wave crashing into trashobilly. Songs rarely stray over two minutes, but in that time you've been dragged backwards through the Karen O universe, dry-humping, dry-retching, squealing, laughing, panting, sticking your tongue out, licking your lips, burning with the fever.

It can't last forever, of course. The minimalist perfection of 'Tick' ("you make me, you make me, you make wanna..."), or 'Man' (juddering, howling, you've got the drift by now) have obsolescence built in, all corners fully realised, nowhere left to go. Which is why 'Fever To Tell' runs into its own comedown. It's almost like you're watching the party fall apart in front of you. The first eight tracks are all of the above - spat large, hormones and intent splattered with abandon, and then the melancholy sets in, the tempo drops, and the atmosphere starts to gather, beauty coalescing in a shiver.

This is the cure for that O virus, then. Hearing Karen sing "wait, they don't love you like I love you" on 'Maps' or sighing "I wish I could buy back the woman you stole" on the U2-do-Joy-Division brilliance of 'Y Control', and realising that this is a gloriously typical first album. When the infatuation fades and the focus shifts, when Karen Omania is just another hangover from the past, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be starting to make truly grand leaps, those instincts swapped for emotions. Be assured, this is a genuinely spectacular album: the most stunning aspect being that there's clearly better to come.

    by Ian Watson

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