Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Fever to Tell (Interscope)

What with White Stripes a month on shelves, and the Rapture and Radiohead soon to come, 2003 is proving a year heavy on the "hotly anticipated." Among these, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' first full-length, Fever to Tell, has likely caused its fair share of bated breath-related injuries, and now that it's here, will no doubt be subjected to more gimlet-eyed scrutiny than any debut deserves.

Or needs. A band's first album is meant to be the one that gets away with its insouciant and impudent mistakes, just because it sounds so freaking fresh. Well, too bad, Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Your free pass got doled out on the Bang! EP, a five-song slab of noisy garage rock so over-the-top you'd a thunk it was parody, were the music not dished out with such unbridled art-punk panache. If the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were geniuses, they would have quit after Bang! and stayed legends forever. As it is, 2002's "Machine" single was probably put out solely to lower the bar on pre-LP expectations.

All those expectations would be moot, of course, if not for the fact that Fever to Tell seems to cop too much to them. Opening track "Rich" kicks things off with smart, synth-driven fervor, but after that things get messy. Front woman Karen O--fetishized as a rock goddess amalgam of Blondie, Patti and Siouxsie--caterwauls all over the place, particularly on the tracks that echo Bang!'s abrasion most conspicuously. Whereas, on the more subdued and subtle Fever tracks ("Pin," "Maps," "Modern Romance") you get the sense that she and her bandmates might have preferred to make a whole album of songs that likewise pulse with building tensions. There's less energy in the louder tracks; they're just louder and come off like the musical equivalent of faked orgasms. "As a fuck, son, you suck": Not quite, but overall Fever to Tell is a bit slutty, giving too much away too much of the time.

 
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