On Tuesday the Yeah Yeah Yeahs release their first full-length, Fever to Tell, but already I feel as if I’ve been hearing about them forever. The New York trio became the subject of a yearlong bidding war (Interscope won) on the basis of a self-released EP, Master, and a heavy dose of image mongering; most of the band’s press gets around to mentioning their mildly imaginative music only after first waxing poetic about the taped-together wardrobe of charismatic singer Karen O. and her predilection for pouring beer all over herself onstage. Such visual gimmicks have certainly been a useful smoke screen for the band, because while there are exciting moments on the new album–guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase smash together such disparate elements as disco grooves, garage-rock riffing, and ambient spaciness–O.’s vocal shtick tires over the long haul. The singer has two personas–bratty sex kitten and roaring man-eater–and she fleshes out both with a mix of piercing histrionics, bored Eurobot cool, and nursery-school sound effects. When personality dominates over substance as it does here, novelty can only go so far. For the most part the trio is finessing the approach it took on the earlier recordings, and the results are mixed. The clunky faux dub coda of “No No No” seems more about filling space than creating it; on “Maps” Zinner decorates almost-straight songcraft with Sonic Youth harmonics while O. sings “They don’t love you like I love you” with apparent earnestness. The band’s riding such a crest of energy that this is bound to be a knockout show–I’m just not sure where the Yeah Yeah Yeahs can go next. Cincinnati’s Greenhornes, who prove themselves masters of 60s British Invasion verities on Dual Mono (Telstar), open. Wednesday, April 30, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Emily Wilson.