10 Years Ago: Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Fever to Tell’ Album Released
Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ 2001 self-titled debut EP came out of nowhere and essentially kick-started the hipster movement, for better or worse. Coming out of Brooklyn (hipster mecca), the bass-free trio (a hipster signpost) featured a nerdy-looking drummer (ditto), an introverted super-skinny guitar player (ditto again) and a singer who looked like she’s just turning in from a night out that was either pretty damn good or life-altering regrettable.
The music on ‘Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ fit the image: all tightly wound guitar songs that skirted the edge of downtown cool and artsy noise. So when the group was unexpectedly picked up by a major label for its debut album, ‘Fever to Tell,’ nobody was really sure that what worked for five songs and less than 15 minutes would translate to a full LP. Turned out it did. And it turned out that the band had more to it than just trebly blades of indie rock that stabbed at the center of an insular scene.
‘Fever to Tell,’ which celebrates its 10th anniversary today, retains part of the EP’s slinging-hipster vibe. But it adds muscular production that elevates many of the songs from their gutter-trash origins. Tracks like ‘Date With the Night’ and ‘Pin’ sound like vicious offshoots from the EP – but bigger, bolder and delivered with more assurance. And Karen O’s piercing shrieks are tamed, for part of the album at least, into softer, warmer tones that helped songs like ‘Y Control’ and the hit single ‘Maps’ receive some airplay.
The album debuted at No. 55, eventually going gold. While ‘Maps’ managed to reach only No. 87 on the pop chart, it went Top 10 at modern rock. And its video, a surprisingly moving high-school-themed clip that complements the irony-free love song, was nominated for four MTV Video Music Awards. ‘Maps’ put Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the map, setting up their next album, 2006’s ‘Show Your Bones, for a No. 11 debut. But ‘Fever to Tell’ remains their artistic highpoint, a hipster-blessed indie-rock record with a surprising sweet spot.
Listen to Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 'Fever to Tell'