How haughty and grossly rockist it would be to say that on April 29, 2003 New York City rock ‘n’ roll was “saved.” Not because rock music didn’t need a proper saving, but because fresh mouthpieces for an idolized glammed-up life of sweaty shows in dirty clubs were in short supply. So it was on this date, right in the midst of the just-commercial-enough ascendance of the Strokes and Interpol—NYC leather-and-studs bands that made one, maybe two, undeniably strong albums—that the Yeah Yeah Yeah‘s dirty, shrieking debut record hit stores. And there Karen O stood, arms and legs akimbo: a true rock icon come to life. And while their peers have come and gone in the past decade, Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase continue to evolve, growing in prowess with every exasperated holler.
Naturally, college radio was no exception for Fever To Tell, which is supported long before the release of the heartbreaking single, “Maps.” It hit No. 1 on June 10, 2003 and remained there for 3 weeks. But it’s worth noting that, despite Fever To Tell‘s debut-album status, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn’t just materialize out of the ether: the early EP’s Machine (11/19/02) and Yeah Yeah Yeahs (07/30/02) were more than just a blip on the radar, peaking at Nos. 15 and 13, respectively, on the CMJ charts.

CMJ Chart June 10, 2003

1 1 YEAH YEAH YEAHS Fever To Tell Interscope
2 3 GRANDADDY Sumday V2
3 2 NEW PORNOGRAPHERS Electric Version Matador
4 5 BLUR Think Tank Virgin
5 4 WHITE STRIPES Elephant V2-Third Man
6 6 YO LA TENGO Summer Sun Matador
7 7 EELS Shootenanny! DreamWorks
8 10 NOFX The War On Errorism Fat Wreck Chords
9 14 LIZ PHAIR Liz Phair Capitol
10 8 PREFUSE 73 One Word Extinguisher Warp
11 20 WIRE Send Pink Flag
12 9 STARLIGHT MINTS Built On Squares PIAS America
13 11 GOLDFRAPP Black Cherry Mute
14 19 FLAMING SIDEBURNS Sky Pilots Jetset
15 13 PLEASURE FOREVER Alter Sub Pop
16 - RADIOHEAD Hail To The Thief Capitol
17 28 ALKALINE TRIO Good Mourning Vagrant
18 22 FOUR TET Rounds Domino
19 15 VERBENA La Musica Negra Capitol
20 25 DEFTONES Deftones Maverick

A few years later the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ballad-like “slump,” if you will, Show Your Bones, maxed out at No. 2 in May 2006. But It’s Blitz, with all its glitz and spectacular displays of showmanship, reached No. 1 on April 14, 2009 and held the spot for a full month. And rightfully so: It’s Blitz was the band’s starmaker. It ushered in younger fans, as well as those who previously found Show Your Bones to be too low-key. And their show only got showier. To use the high rollin’ festival circuit as a gauge of mass-appeal success, the YYYs really upper their cultural currency. That year, they headlined Goldenvoice’s now-defunct NYC-focused festival All Points West, Glastonbury and Lollapalooza.
And now here we are, coming on a decade after Fever To Tell wore itself out in my car’s self-installed CD player, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs live in a rare space as both bonafide stars and critical darlings. Whether Mosquito (which CMJ gives a big thumbs-up) will follow its predecessors chart-wise… well, check back in a few weeks.