I think, given 6 years of hindsight, it might be safe to say that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah weren’t really expecting the critical acclaim they received for their self-titled debut back in 2005. Because listening to the two rather unsure LPs that they’ve stuttered out since then, I get the sense of a band struggling to recreate that magic formula which had us all applauding wildly and nodding our approval. It’s almost as if they threw that endearing debut together on a couple of stoned nights at home – after scoring some seriously potent green – and have been striving in vain to get themselves into that golden mindset of stoner inspiration ever since.
I distinctly remember the joys of being a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah fan back in 2005. Honestly, I used to revel in introducing them to people. Their name alone was enough to prick ears up of course, but after you had set off into that album of effortless, unhurried production and groggy, indecipherable lyricism for the first time, you were hooked on it. It was as good a stoner record as an indie rock band could hope to achieve. It would draw you towards its well-executed eccentricities but still have the subtle craft to work beautifully as dependable background music. And the fact that it sounded like they weren’t even trying was perhaps its strongest quality.
But this half-arsed genius has not embodied their releases since. In fact, they’ve gone completely the other way. Now they’re trying too hard. 2007’s Some Loud Thunder was as boisterous and inconsequential as that title suggests, and in parts was virtually unlistenable. The band didn’t give a toss about re-capturing the laid-back mood of the debut, determined instead to cause a ruckus. It was a bit of a mess in truth. And the negative reaction they received for that album may well have knocked their confidence a bit, because it has been four long years between it and their 3rd album, Hysterical.
Hysterical sees CYHSY wanting to get back to a more honed and consistent sound. This strategy at least saves the album from harbouring any unlistenable moments but, the problem is, it doesn’t really harbour any notably listenable ones either. The band are clearly trying to get back to that melodious simplicity that had us head over heels six years ago, but there’s something missing; they’ve forgotten the knack for a beguiling hook, and none really catch hold. Moments of note include title track Hysterical, which has a rewarding bassline but is unfortunately smothered by an unmemorable melody, Same Mistake, a happy little jaunt but lacking that knockout punch, and grand finale Adams Plane, which ends on some very David Bowie / Aladdin Sane piano mania.
That’s about it. The rest sneaks on past while you’ve got your back turned, not daring to catch your gaze in case you should react too severely to its presence. Safe, solid even, but forgettable.
Ch-Check It Out If You’re Partial To – their cult-status debut; one of this centuries most lauded underdogs; Alec Ounsworth’s barely decipherable delivery; a band working to win us back
Fantastic Track – Same Mistake