posted on Nov.18, 2011
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Release Number: 3rd
Hailing From: Brooklyn, NY and Philadelphia, PA
Genre: Alternative Rock
It’s hard to tell whether or not Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s 2003 self-titled debut is a blessing or a curse. One on hand it is a near-perfect record that brought out a refreshing take on alternative rock with lead singer Alec Ounsworth’s cracking wail coupled with a mix of heavy chords and buzzing synth, all self-released. On the other hand it is now serving as a gold standard for the rest of their albums and Hysterical just does not compare.
Their 2007 sophomore record, Some Loud Thunder, shows evidence of some maturing in their sound, but sometimes maturation is not for the better. They moved from fun melodies to more serious tunes with darker lyrics. The guitar sounded less garbled and scratchy, the power of synth is taken advantage of, and Ounsworth’s vocals became more well rounded, to the dismay of many fans. They tried to mimic their unique sound with the intro track, “Some Loud Thunder”, offering a heavy distortion that is almost painful to listen to. This evolution continued in the form of Hysterical.
The opening of Hysterical, “Same Mistake”, does not reflect their past two albums such that it is not some crazy, out of character child of some new production tactic. It’s surprisingly a normal song. Normal in that it is not a silly, crackling song that sounds like it belongs in a carnival, or that it is not distorted beyond proportion so that you can’t even make out the lyrics. It’s actually a beautifully composed song with synth strings and a drum pattern that sounds a lot like their hit “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth”. The height of the album is the second track and also the title track. It is an epic jam that powers through almost four minutes of heavy drums and fast-paced lyrics about a man unconfident of his relationship, that just wants to get out of it.
There are two more fast and fun tracks, “Maniac” and “Ketamine and Ecstasy”, that are characteristic of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and are almost nostalgic of their debut. However, the rest of the album is a product of over-used synth strings and Ounsworth’s even more rounded voice that pains me to hear. The lyrics are dismal, highlighting the uncertainty of life, and the inability to control time. One song, “Adam’s Plane”, tells of the narrator seeing ghosts and his haunting of his deceased friend. Viewed as a single work apart from their debut or sophomore album, one may see Hysterical as a beautifully put together record that incorporates realistic themes of life into string laden, powerful melodies but original CYHSY fans know their true potential, but unfortunately, this is not it.
-Michael Vermeuel, Music Staff