It's here! Waiting for this disc was like the anticipation of that big mysterious box under the Christmas tree marked "from Santa": you know you asked for vintage Shogun Warriors, but there's a good chance it's a green homemade sweater with a sunset on the front from your crazy aunt Sarah.
If it's okay with mom, I'm going to rip the wrapping off like a ten year old.
If you're already a fan, you've probably heard versions of several of these tracks online over the last year. You won't be let down at all, but relieved to finally hear the tour-honed final versions. Yes, Fever to Tell continues down the same path as the YYYs' self-titled and Machine EPs; this is one time when you'll be happy to learn that the formula -- which in this case resembles a rough, unfired pot thrown by an untrained, radical idiot savant -- remains the same, despite big money backing the project. Not much has changed in the trio's approach to sound: Zinner's guitars are still razor sharp and angular, Chase is still the master of floor-toms and ghost notes, and Karen "soon to be immortalized as a Sanrio character" O is still as jumpy and gloriously spastic as ever. They're still the masters of the juxtaposed, dynamic "art-rock" song form, whipped out again and again without regard for fact that the average track length never tops three minutes.
This time around you'll witness the unveiling of something the band hinted at with Machine: the dark side. It isn't the blatantly obvious, clichéd shell of black clothes, lipstick and tattoos employed by the latest poser goth bands; it's more the type that artists such as Muddy Waters, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter and early Rolling Stones projected, and it'll send chills down your spine. You'll hear this approach throughout the disc; for every bouncy, up-tempo pop tune like "Tick", there's a deathly homage-to-Bowie slink like "Man" (I got a man who makes me wanna kill...I got a man who makes the Devil pale...I said we're all gonna burn in hell") or the B-52s-cum-AC/DC collage of "Rich" ("I'll take you out boy...flesh ripped off...rawrawrawrawrawwwwww..."). Often it's a combination of the two, and it plays out like a romantic-suspense movie. "Black Tongue" settles into a squealing chant of "uh-huh, uh-huh" over a hand-clap/go-go beat-driven surf-rock tune. It's a fabulous chicane; as soon as the band has lured you into the corner, they drop the bag over your head and slash your throat with a wall of guitars. Tiny Karen, her mouth suddenly full of alarmingly sharp teeth, shrills, "Boy, you're just a stupid bitch and girl you're just a no-good dick." Yipes.
The band's configuration for Fever to Tell is the same as on "classic" YYYs tracks, yet this never means boring: their sonic palette is rich, and their exploration knows no bounds. "No No No" is a good example: the march-like intro unwinds slowly, unfolding under Karen's Lou Reedy slurs of "He'll never come back as the man you loved", backed with piercing nu-metal feedback and cymbal bashing. As soon as you get comfortable, everything fades away -- and from across the universe, we're greeted by a mix of reggae drumming, dub "bass guitar" and echoplexed vocals, swirling from ear to ear as the track sinks into a subtle wash of delay effects.
To all of you who hide from the hype: good for you -- but to counter Public Enemy, please believe me on this one. Try not to think of Fever to Tell as the latest fodder for the Hype-O-Matic. It probably won't sway rock and roll, and it most likely won't change your life, but it's a solid disc from a consistent band who haven't let their major-label affiliation change them.