Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Mike Mantin 23/01/2006
Though their music is vastly different, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are the US equivalent of the ubiquitous Arctic Monkeys. Like everyone's favourite Sheffield scamps, they found success not through major labels and A&R deals but by pressing their own CDs and using an invention still puzzling to the aforementioned bigwigs called the 'interweb'. Months of word-of-mouth and a 9/10 review on the dreaded Pitchfork later, they're fending off acclaim with one hand and backlash with the other. While many were quick to proclaim them the most exciting band of the year, others thought they were a let down. Again like the Monkeys, they are neither: they just produce solid indie-rock.
Their eponymous debut album is a fine achievement and a triumph for lo-fi. It flows smoothly with no filler - even the instrumental interludes (usually ill-advised) are engaging. 'Blue Turning Grey', for example, represents a quiet minute of thought in between album highlights 'Heavy Metal' and 'In This Home On Ice'. Aesthetically, the songs are beautiful. The band drench their pop tunes in colourful, swirly guitars and attach complementary catchy basslines to them. Like fellow hype-victims Broken Social Scene, they smother their melodies with layers of instrumentation, but leave enough shining through to make them appealing on first listen.
That said, the only thing that could get in the way of immediate conformity to the hype is Alec Ounsworth's love-'em-or-hate-'em vocals. His voice is either an infuriating yelp or a drone that's up there with Thom Yorke or (the most obvious comparison) David Byrne's. Coupled with the slight lack of variety on display here (they know their formula and they stick to it), for some it will exist only as a series of separate songs to be queued up every now and then on an iPod rather than a coherent album, though its short-but-sweet length and the presence of some absolutely killer songs shouldn't make that too much of a problem.
It's often hard to feel sorry for a band for being loved, but as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah prepare to enter the UK's mainstream (even the NME have latched on now), the hype is likely to get louder and, where the Arcade Fire had an orchestral epicness as their selling-point, CYHSY posses only a warm indie-rock glow more associated with underground successes than albums you can buy in your local Woolworth's. But now the record deal is signed, the album's out and you've made up your mind, they can be proclaimed a success. And though this is a strong and at times brilliant album that can justify their rise, it'll take something new and equally exciting to hold onto the limelight.