I wasn’t interested in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for quite a long time. I didn’t like the snippets of their EP I’d heard on a listening post in HMV in Oldham, and neither did I think much of “Pin” when I saw its Celebrity Deathmatch inspired video at my mate Liam’s house about a year or so later. At the time, I felt they were pretentious and too arty and all style over substance. Then I heard “Maps”.
It’d difficult to put into words how much I love “Maps”. It’s devastatingly heartbreaking but not soppy; completely original yet instantly familiar. I’d never heard anything like it, but it absolutely floored me the first time and still does. The combination of the resigned vocal delivery, desperate lyrics and killer of a chorus stop me in my tracks every time I hear it. I think it’s very close to being a perfect song.
“Maps” isn’t really representative of the rest of Fever To Tell, and songs like “Tick” and “Man” must have come as a shock to some who bought the album on the strength of that song alone. They’re spiky, noisy and at times quite unhinged, and the first half of Fever To Tell is an exhilarating ride of squealing guitars and seductive yelps. All of these factors come together sublimely on “Date With The Night”, a song I must have danced to every Thursday at the Bassment for the three years I was at university.
The second half of the album seems a bit calmer, and contains most of my favourites. “Y Control” is another song I remember hearing regularly at the Bassment – I always hoped for this one to be played instead of “Date With The Night” – and “Modern Romance” is another heartbreaker. It’s sometimes difficult to believe that the same Karen O who screams and shrieks through “Pin” and “Tick” could pull off such emotionally affecting vocal performances.
I feel like an idiot for not liking the Yeah Yeah Yeahs straightaway, but I’m really glad I eventually came round to them. While there are points on Fever To Tell that I think get a bit too wild just for the sake of it, it is undoubtedly a brilliant album and one I think they’ll struggle to top.