Music lovers tend to grow to love flawed fragments of a complete piece of music if they love the piece as a whole. This should assuage the members of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, a group that builds around, not on top of, their flaws resulting in one of the year’s most promising debut–the self-released Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
Alec Ounsworth, the band’s singer, manages to pull hues from Paul Banks, Isaac Brock, David Byrne, Win Butler, and Jeff Mangum. The flaw here is that the album uses Ounsworth’s voice as a quirk, restricting the group’s most powerful tool. At his best, the results are remarkably stellar–tracks like “In This Home On Ice” (mp3), “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood” (mp3), and “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” wash Ounsworth’s drawl with warm, spacious guitar lines. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah reeks of The Bends-era songwriting, while the murky production monotonizes what could be some of the most expansive atmospherics since My Bloody Valentine.
What restricts Clap Your Hands more than anything, though, is the brief glimpse we get of their potential. When you take into consideration two brief instrumental passages, “Gimme Some Salt,” which is decidedly less than stellar and doesn’t fit in anywhere on the album, and the throwaway opener “Clap Your Hands,” which sounds like a group of deranged carnies listening to too much Tom Waits, you’re left with only eight tracks. Although this serves to emphasize the strength of the powerful songs on the album, including the unexpected “Details Of The War,” a starlit rumination of Devotchka-esque proportions, eight tracks is hardly enough to gauge a band.
What we do get, however, is a pleasant from-left-field treat–a complete surprise for fans of mid-90’s indie and post-punk. “Is This Love?” represents the album best–as pretty verses fade into manic choruses and then come crashing back to Earth, the schizophrenic Ounsworth remains equally charismatic. As a result, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah manages to imitate its idols without actually insulting them. Faults aside, few bands are able to sound as confident and experienced in their songwriting as this Brooklyn collective. Let’s consider this label-less debut a minor success, and hope for dropped jaws when they acquire the resources to properly introduce themselves to the world.