Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

These guys were the indie heroes of 2005. With no record or distribution deal, they managed to sell tens of thousands of copies of this album through good press from blogs (and Pitchfork); they were hand-mailing these things out from their Brooklyn apartment across the globe. And they seemed pretty low-key about the whole thing. But I didn’t care for the second album and then I sort of forgot about them. Apparently, the entire band eventually quit and leader Alec Ounsworth is now the sole member of this project.

What I Think of This Album

I am not a fan of weird opening numbers – I don’t need a carnival barker to tell me to “hold on to your hat, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.” Just start playing the damn music.

Eventually, CYHSY settles into an energetic groove. Alec Ounsworth half warbles / half mumbles, with a distinctly David Byrne sound to his voice. This is probably what’s going to make or break this album for you – either you accept Ounsworth’s vocals or you don’t. Along with the annoying intro, there are also a couple of other 90 second tracks, which are what I find the biggest stumbling block (though “Blue Turning Gray” is admittedly pretty). But that groove I mentioned? Yeah, it’s here in full guitar-and-keyboard glory, with Ounsworth’s haphazard voice on top.

“Let the Cool Goddess Rust” benefits from a suspension bridge cable bass line and some great tom pounding; there is a sort of Wedding Present vibe to the rushing guitars. It’s easy to lose yourself in the appropriately titled and glittering “Over and Over Again (Lost and Found).” There is a tense beauty and grace to “Details of the War,” particularly when you consider that one of the lyrics is “camel dick.”

The strongest track is unmistakably “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth,” with a New Order bass part (but more spare), disco beat (also, New Order-ish, frankly), glassine keyboard lines, skittery guitar (New. Fucking. Order.) and an unstoppable vocal melody that Ounsworth stretches like he’s some kind of taffy-pulling savant. “Is This Love?” is where the Byrne comparison is most appropriate, but that’s not to take away from the song at all, which sort of sadly tumbles all over the place.

The big surprise of “Heavy Metal” is that . . . it is not remotely metal (though in fairness, the lyrics indicate the band was talking about a suit of armor); this song is just okay. The band gets back on track with the dysthymic but thrilling “In This Home On Ice,” with a sort of Yo La Tengo sound. Closer “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood” (umm, okay) is another pulsing song that somehow comes across as both modest and anthemic, and also clinically depressed. Which is to say . . . I like it! Ounsworth pulls you in to his vortex when he chants “child stars” for what seems like three hours and you emerge gasping for air when he yelps “With their sex / And their drugs / And their rock / And rock / And rock and rock ‘n’ roll, HEY!” 

The Best Thing About This Album

“The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” can even make me feel good, for almost six minutes.

Release Date

June, 2005

The Cover Art

I think this is hideous. The drawing is by Dasha Shishkin, with coloring and lettering by one of the band members.

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