In 2003, the world at large met the art punk rockers, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and their first full length album, “Fever To Tell” on Interscope records. In general, the album was well received across the board.
Though it seems to be forgotten, “Fever to Tell” was an internationally gold selling album gaining much positive press, including being named New York Times’ album of the year.
What made the album so accessible to so many was not a pleasant melody or optimistic lyrics, but rather a loud wall of sound from simple but forceful drum beats with stabbing guitar riffs by Brian Chase and Nick Zinner, respectively, and a bestial and savage sexuality that is Karen O. Their music is unapologetically apocalyptic with no delusions about the future. The album perfectly captures the doomed sentimentality of the decade and the desire to go out with a bang.
“Fever to Tell” was released in April of 2003, just over a month after President Bush declared war on Iraq and just as I was moving to my third high school. The change from Los Angeles County to Ventura County was disorienting, and I couldn’t get any grip on reality. I became friends with a couple of girls who helped me through some of my most emotionally retarded moments.
I spent the majority of my time dressing in girl’s clothing, wearing eyeliner, mascara, blush and a crispy, over-gelled devil-lock, all while wrestling on my school’s varsity team. This odd behavior was just two years in a decade-long therapy session in which most of my generation tried to come to terms with a looming Armageddon.
When you listen to the album, you will hear reoccurring themes of failed relationships, which feel as if they are blanketed in artificial red lighting, failed masculinity or femininity, sex and hell. But the album doesn’t treat these as bad things. To The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and the rest of us, these are the things that make us alive.
As Karen O sings in “Man,” the decade is defined by a hopeless-but-what-are-you-gonna-do-about-it mentality. We are surrounded by friends we hate, lovers who demand too much, God is dead, and there’s Darfur, the economy’s collapsing, and our president lied to us and we’re all gonna burn in hell.
So what is there to do other than dress really theatrically and over-sexed and scream really loudly and embrace the train wreck? Well, we could try to be sincere, hope for the best, keep putting ourselves out there despite heartbreak and hope that the world isn’t going to die.
We could try to reduce our carbon footprint, adopt a child in Africa and love the one we’re with. But what’s the point? We’re just going to lose it all anyway. And, O sings, “Time, time is gone/It stops stops who it was/Well I was wrong it never lasts/There is no modern romance.”