[1 August 2005]
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah will save rock and roll. They’re the next Talking Heads, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Arcade Fire all rolled into one. They sell out shows, merchandise, and copies of their latest release wherever they go. Watch out America, this indie-rock quintet is taking over.
Hold on a minute. Let’s wait and see if they reach their second record first.
With all the press hoopla, rave reviews, and the nod of every faux-hawk wearing hipster in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when first hearing the name Clap Your Hands Say Yeah its difficult not to expect some kind of prophetic musical savior here to change the face of music as we know it. It’s just all too easy to jump aboard the musical bandwagon.
When faced with the facts though, CYHSY are in their infancy. They formed in Brooklyn over the course of the last few years, are as of now still unsigned, and much of their CD sales are still done through the band itself. Their self-released debut, while extremely promising, sounds just as it should: A self-released bid for some deserved attention. So let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
This is part of the allure of CYHSY though; this honest, raw feeling of a hard-working group of guys out of Brooklyn seemingly concerned with nothing more than their music and giving their fans a damn good show. Not to mention that for a first effort on limited funds, it’s not half bad.
The album begins with “Clap Your Hands”, an eerie, organ-driven opener that features lead singer Alec Ounsworth as the ringmaster to a somber circus of back-up singers as he commands them to forget their worries.
This transitions nicely into the album’s first true song, “Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away”. An upbeat tune, Ounsworth’s vocals croon over choppy and creative muted guitar that gives way to lush chords accented gently accented by atmospheric synths, a fitting formal introduction to CYHSY’s eclectic yet accessible style.
The entire album is surprisingly consistent given the band’s fairly short lifespan. The production screams of the standard indie-rock, under-produced tone, but maintains an air of professional purpose that constantly hovers just above this feeling giving a strong sense of dignity to a project that clearly had monetary limitations. Interludes “Sunshine & Clouds (And Everything Proud)” and “Blue Turning Gray” are footnotes on the album, but nicely showcase the group’s broad range of influence which the band has stated in various interviews ranges from Bob Dylan to Stevie Wonder to Nina Simone.
This style of production has its advantages and disadvantages, just ask Interpol. While the consistent style throughout the record provides a nice sense of flow and displays exceptional maturity for such a young band, the more notable tracks can get lumped in with the rest, difficult to distinguish amongst the similar tone. “Details of the War” and “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth”, for example both sport well-developed vocals supported by imaginative instrumentals but can easily be missed entirely when listening to the album as it moves as fluidly from song to song.
Ounsworth’s vocals, which sound like a looser, less articulate form of Jeff Magnum of Neutral Milk Hotel, shine prominently on “Heavy Metal” and the album’s penultimate track “Gimme Some Salt”, displaying a range from powerful, enthusiastic belting to a gentle sassy whisper.
While all of this is promising, and illustrates that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah likely has a very bright career ahead of them, they’re only just getting started. David Byrne didn’t trip over a guitar one day and write Fear of Music, it took some time. So Alex Ounsworth and Co. needn’t worry about shouldering the responsibilities of climbing their way into musical history, at least not yet.