The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a female-fronted three-piece from (where else?) Brooklyn, are being hyped as the latest saviors of raw fucking rock 'n' roll, especially in Tony Blair's kingdom, where mania over the garage-rock phenom runs high. They come to us as yet another American garage-rock tsunami in the wake of the Strokes/White Stripes breakthrough, with one distinct erotic differentiator: an in-your-face electrorod of insistent female sexuality stuffing her libido down your throat -- and hers. (More on that in a bit.)
The YYYs -- singer Karen O, guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase -- have just released their full-length debut, Fever to Tell, a caterwauling record that oscillates between sleazy raunch and inspired art-rock. Zinner and Chase stake their claim as a dexterous twosome filling songs with sassy rhythms and guitar licks that range from bluesy wail to just plain corrosive. As with the Stripes and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, who needs a bass to kick the listener in the nuts?
The real issue to be taken with Fever to Tell and with the Yeahs in general, however, is Karen O's use of vocal histrionics which -- when hyperbolically overwrought, as they are on many of the tracks -- sound like the shrill whine of Chloe Webb's Nancy Spungen in Sid and Nancy or a dog's squeak toy run over by an 18-wheeler. It's only when she restrains herself, as on "Maps," "Modern Romance" and "Y Control," wherein she channels Siouxsie Sioux, that her singing is downright sultry. It resonates much louder than the shrieking.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
"Maps" is by far the standout track on Fever to Tell, a gentle, devoted plea, where O sings, "Wait, they don't love you like I love you." But this sentiment isn't characteristic of the record, which leans heavily toward horny debauchery (O is known at the group's live shows for simultaneously singing and pouring Budweiser down her throat). A few songs seem to be profane for the sake of the profanity, as on "Black Tongue," where she sings, "Boy, you're just a stupid bitch / And girl, you're just a no-good dick."
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Nonetheless, Fever to Tell teems with runaway passion, personified best on "Man," where O proclaims, "I got a man that makes me wanna kill," over a disco-garage beat. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs may not be as remarkable as the Stripes or Strokes, but at least they sound like they're having a lot more fun.