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Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Fever To Tell

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Album: Fever To Tell
Label: Interscope

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs is a fine punk trio, but there's no way it would have moved past midweek opening slots without lead singer Karen O. Live, she's a consummate show-stealer whose raw squeals and drizzle-down yowls can freeze a crowd like few others'. The first half of Fever To Tell holds out some good facsimiles of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs stage experience: "Rich" slinks through a grubby peacock strut with a ray-gun guitar intro and O's near-parodic sex whine. ("I'm rich, so stuck up, I wish you'd stick it to me!") "Date With The Night" moves from the knees to the hips with prowling guitar bursts and a hissy drum groove. And "Tick" laces a campy garage shuffle with a song-ending inventory of O's vocal range, which ties sneering, laughing, crying, and sexual climax into a knotted mess. But for all of Yeah Yeah Yeahs' storied live presence, the album pulls a curious trick with a second half that tempers the noise and character-fronts with more sullen swings. Songs like "No No No" and "Maps" make pained foils for the preening screeds they follow, while also exposing a few of their revved-up predecessors' shortcomings. Nick Zinner's guitar sounds better with space and time to breathe, and Brian Chase's drumming reveals itself more at a dynamic simmer, but for her part, O shoots herself in the foot a bit with stirring heart-tugs that make her name-making shriek sound put-on in retrospect. While not quite the epochal showing demanded by its long gestation, the album holds out an impressive range with a few different directions to follow. Fever To Tell shows that, on record at least, Yeah Yeah Yeahs is better as a mood band than as a "rawk" group, but its high points also suggest space to explore in between.