CD Review of In the City of Sleep by The Fever

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In the City of Sleep
starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Kemado
Released: 2006
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You say you want an evolution? Well, let it never be said that the guys in the Fever are afraid of growing as a band. In their previous releases, the Pink on Pink EP and the subsequent full-length, The Red Bedroom, the Fever were doing pretty much the same thing the Strokes and Interpol were doing (not too surprising, given that all three bands are from NYC), with a bit of Hot Hot Heat thrown into the mix. With In the City of Sleep, however, producer Steve Rivette – known more for his engineering work on albums by the Beastie Boys and Jimmy Eat World – has helped expand the Fever’s sound considerably.

In the City of Sleep is a bit of a murky trip, one that’s less a trip into a dreamscape than a visitation into someone’s nightmares; it’s not what you’d call slit-yer-wrists depressing, but it definitely travels down a path that’s…well, let’s just say it’s not all that well-lit. The album’s press release boldly describes the proceedings as “the sound of a Fellini-esque circus world melding with David Lynch style 21st Century film noir and junkyard beats creating a surreal dark urban universe full of rock n’ roll nightmares and lullabies of lost innocence.” That’s a little heavy-handed, admittedly, but the suggestion that the record succeeds in “drawing a line between the Bad Seeds and the Beach Boys” is surprisingly close to the mark.

The opening track is a 57-second instrumental entitled “Curtains,” which is likely the Fever’s way of saying that the proceedings are going to be rather theatrical and not a little bit dramatic. The first proper song on the disc, “Redhead,” melds surf guitar to a musical structure that could’ve appeared on a Franz Ferdinand album, but it’s followed by the evil carnival sounds of “Waiting for the Centipede,” which is like a cross between “People Are Strange” and “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” “Little Lamb and the Shiny Silver Bullets” also has a Beatles feel to it, though it’s less Sgt. Pepper and more White Album…like, say, “Glass Onion” or “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” “Do the Tramp,” meanwhile, clearly draws influence from Tom Waits. The instrumentation is equally diverse, including everything from pump organ to marimba…and while they might not use everything in-between, you’d be hard pressed to guess it from the amount of sonic variety to be had in these sixteen tracks.

As the In the City of Sleep comes to its conclusion with “Yr Fool,” a song which utilizes the time-honored tradition of a false ending to fake out the listener, it’s clear that no matter what the Fever may have been before, they’re something entirely different now. Whether you like the album or not, you have to admire them for not getting stuck in a rut.

~Will Harris