[6 August 2009]
This loose, eight-person downtown collective makes music that’s so post-genre it’s almost futile to describe. Still, it’s clear that Daniel Collas and Sean Marquand, the group’s main songwriters and ex-DJs, have a deep and wide-ranging musical appetite. It ranges from psychedelica to disco to funk, with a strong overlay of prog that gives these leisurely songs its esoteric air. The sound is a bit of a hodgepodge, partly because of the eclectic collaborators (which include Jon Spencer and members of TV on the Radio), but partly, you assume, because the guys just let loose and wander in whatever direction they’re feeling at the time.The best turn is thanks to ‘80s rapper Lady Tigra, whose chants have the most attitude of anything on the disc.
Elsewhere, things feel a little cerebral; the layers of synths, set up as a back-up to the vocalist’s blue-eyed soul, never quite reach the spark of joy that fuels disco revivalists like Escort. Still, there are momentary highlights, such as the chanted refrain, “All that time with nothing to show for it” that buoys the old-school funk track “15 to 20”. And the milking of the groove in “I Been Born Again”, though simple classic-rock 4/4, is nonetheless effective. Overall The Phenomenal Handclap Band, despite its talented cast and ambitious reach, can’t quite pull all threads together. Next time, maybe, with more hand claps.