Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
December 1, 2011
The Varsity Theater
A lot of people have been hating on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah lately. Their latest album, Hysterical, received a lackluster response critically when it was released in September of this year, and yes, CYHSY has had a bit of difficulty trying to recreate the magic they achieved with their stellar self-titled debut from 2005.
At the same time, who gives a shit about that? The band's only put out three albums to date; if they stay together long enough to record and continue as a band, they aren't ready to be dismissed quite yet. It's not as if CYHSY are the only New York indie band that had trouble following up a Samson-strong first album (ahem...Strokes and Interpol). They're a working band with time on their hands, and if their solid performance last night is any indicator of their strength overall, there's still a lot to love about Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
Last night was Alec Ounsworth's birthday. You wouldn't know it, though, as the CYHSY front man and crew breezed onto stage all business and no ceremony, launching into opener, "Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away" with his patent warble bleating out to a sizable crowd. They followed it with Hysterical's first track, "Same Mistake," an uplifting sweeping synth-heavy epic full of crash symbols; a song worlds away from anything on their first album.
Four songs in, after the stripped down rock and roll favorite "Gimme Some Salt," Ounsworth commented on Varsity's holiday decorations, slurring to the crowd with a grin that "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" before waltzing into the lyrically adept and nostalgic "Misspent Youth," off of Hysterical. It's true that new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah songs seem to have lost something. The band's broadened its sound, they're doing more sonically, and their third album's production is clean and collected. In doing that, though, they've lost a lot of the free and guttural feeling they used to have. It's perhaps the reason the show's crowd favorites almost seamlessly lined up with tracks off their 2005 debut, songs like, "In This Home On Ice," "Over and Over Again," and their 2005 single "Is This Love?" Although most of the new songs landed without a hitch, and a few like "Ketamine and Ecstasy" and "Maniac" shined, it was the first album and the single singalong track, "Satan Said Dance," off of their sophomore Some Loud Thunder that pushed energy forward.
On some level, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah understand the situation they're in and act accordingly. Even they seemed to be having more fun playing the 2005 crowd favorites last night than their newer tracks. And after opening the two-song encore with the closing track from Hysterical, "Adam's Plane," a slightly indulgent seven minute ballad, Ounsworth sealed this understanding by leaping into "Upon This Tidal Wave Of Blood," the closer from their debut record and a tight limitlessly upbeat song that ends with the sound equivalent of a power switch being turned off. They waved to the crowd and then left, a tight 18-song set teetering under the 90-minute mark. They left the crowd wanting more, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah isn't out of the game yet.
Personal Bias: I even like Hysterical.
The Crowd: Widely varied in age, uniform in their collective swaying.
Overheard in the crowd: "Happy Birthday! I don't think he heard me, I'm gonna say it again."
Random Notebook Dump: It's crazy that Alec Ounsworth doesn't know that they sound like Talking Heads.
1. Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away
2. Same Mistake
3. Satan Said Dance
4. Gimme Some Salt
5. Misspent Youth
7. In This Home On Ice
8. In A Motel
9. Ketamine And Ecstasy
10. Details Of The War
11. The Witness' Dull Surprise
12. Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)
13. The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth
15. Is This Love?
16. Heavy Metal
17. Adams Plane
18. Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood