The current flow of retro “the” bands seems to be never ending. Everywhere you turn there’s a new house of reptilian jealous lovers in NYC, dancing to the underground. It’s a great love sound, but somehow I feel we’ve been had. As hip as it is and as good as it looks, this faux post-punk thing gets a little tiring. So when a new batch of shaggy haired New Yorkers comes around, being hailed as the next big thing, they better be as good as The Fever.
At first look, and perhaps even at first listen, The Fever doesn’t appear to be much more than just another catchy disco punk band -nothing adventurous, but nice enough. But a thorough run through their debut full-length, Red Bedroom reveals a more sophisticated band, one that ups their contemporaries by diversifying their palette enough to truly stand apart. Upon hearing Red Bedroom, it’s apparent that the band’s personal tastes go beyond the realm of P.I.L. and Gang of Four. Though the vocals are sneers, the guitars are screechy and the keyboards are vintage, The Fever have a lot more to offer than a novelty throwback.
The general public’s likely first encounter with The Fever was “Ladyfingers,” included on the Yes New York compilation, which put the band among the ranks of Interpol, Radio 4 and The Rapture. And no disrespect to those bands, but “Ladyfingers” was undoubtedly the hottest track on the album, save for Ted Leo’s “Ballad of the Sin Eater,” whose inclusion on the comp seemed like an odd fit to begin with. “Ladyfingers” is built on repetitive disco beats, an irresistible synth riff, crashing guitars and Geremy Jasper’s sassy-pants vocals. If you heard it, by now your head would still be ringing with the refrain of “oh oh oh oh/I walk on my hands for you.”
But there’s more than just one good single here – there are twelve! “Cold Blooded” and “Gray Ghost” are more of the same infectious new wave, albeit with a strong Oingo Boingo influence. “Hexxxed” approximates a post-punk Tom Waits, with its clangy production and Ribot-esque guitar riffs. And not only does the band draw from Boingo, but from Danny Elfman’s film scores as well, as heard in the creepy, carnivalesque “Dream Machine.” But the band has a softer side as well, which they express magnificently on “Put it on You,” which bears a slight resemblance to Blondie’s “In the Flesh.”
If you happen to be looking for the album in an independent record store, chances are it’ll be stocked underneath a headless female mannequin bust painted to resemble a tuxedo, to go along with the absurd glam robots on the cover. It may be the band’s effort to recycle the pretentious indulgence of ’80s imagery to match their sound, but they’re not fooling anyone. The Fever is making the music of the future.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.