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Yeah Yeah Yeahs 

Fever to Tell (Interscope)

Summer is the best season for records, and cars are the best venues for summer records, and all the way down is the best window position for cruising, and all the way up is the best volume level for listening. Choruses should be so catchy and horny and explody that they arrive like a water balloon to the head. Summer records ooze sex and joy, celebrate wild heat and heavenly lovemaking; the great ones are so huge as to be able to house your memories, absorb them within the songs themselves, where they live. Every time you hear the album -- say, Fever to Tell by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs -- an ocean of lovely lurid memories of that summer washes in.

Yep yep yep, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' debut (after two indie EPs) is as good as they say it is, pretty much, if you like your rock smashy-crashy-smarty-arty. They're from New York City, home to a bevy of their influences, from Sonic Youth to the Bush Tetras to Blondie to the Velvet Underground to the Blues Explosion, and you can tell, because despite their recklessness, they seem ultrasophisticated, self-aware and savvy, usually a recipe for rock & roll disaster. (New York bands, more blueblood than blue-collar, seldom lose complete control; they're more academic than adrenalized.) But Fever to Tell ultimately conquers both the head and the heart.

Singer Karen O is a superstar, and she gets lost in these songs. She's PJ Hanna Harry Siouxsie Styrene Cervenka, an archetype-in-the-wings rock star who is, indeed, all that plus some sparkles -- with a decent set of screams to boot. She's got 'tude, style and an admirable willingness to shred her throat with a cheese grater when the song demands it. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs -- also featuring guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase -- have created a rock & roll roller coaster that moves from the tight punk action of "Pin," with its glorious, classic refrain -- "Bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp! Duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum!" -- to rough-and-tumble blues numbers such as "Tick." The latter examples come the closest to sucking because they sounds as if they were created for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and Lord knows the last thing this world needs is another Blues Explosion rip-off. But the Yeahs aren't, and they tower over their predecessors and peers because they got the beat, proved mightily with the great double whammy of "Maps" and "Y Control." With 50 Cent killing the charts and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs killing the rock, it's gonna be a New York City summer, a good thing after way too many Orlando and Los Angeles ones.

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December 8, 2021

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