[sic] Magazine

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Hysterical

There is a holy grail for discerning music fans, a pursuit that demands a never-ending quest for that band which enters the zeitgeist and somehow builds on the legacy of Talking Heads and takes it forward. David Byrne’s seminal outfit were smart, intellectual, erudite, boundary busting and most of all cool as permafrost with unit sales to match. Was it any wonder that they were favourite group of Bret Easton Ellis’s demented anti hero Patrick Bateman in the uber black comedy American Psycho ? In 2006 the Brooklyn five piece Clap Your Hands Say Yeah started a ramshackle DIY internet operation to ship their album from their front room and all of a sudden become a sensation. The ghost of Talking Heads was invoked with Byrne and David Bowie almost falling over themselves to endorse their eponymous self titled debut. This was entirely understandable since on songs like ‘Over and Over again (lost and found)’ and the ‘The Skin Of My Yellow County Teeth’ they produced urbane sparkling pop music with Alec Ounsworth’s vocals straying dangerously close to Byrne’s but staying the right side of pastiche. It all promised a future so bright that they needed to wear shades.

Sadly you know what happens next. In 2007 the CYHSY released their second album Some loud thunder and it was a truly sorry sophomore stinker and they slipped from view. After a four year gap it would be pleasing to report that their third proper album Hysterical marks a return to the diamond form of their debut but not quite. Still it is a very accomplished effort and one, which does take them much closer to the mainstream following the experimental mish mash of Some Loud Thunder . Opener ‘Same mistake’ is packed with jingling guitars, pounding drums and concrete slabs of synths. It is an exhilarating start but better immediately follows with the excellent title track a real powerhouse which echoes the grandeur of the Arcade Fire and has ‘live encore’ stamped all over it. The pace slows dramatically for the nice Spector -ish melancholy of ‘Misspent Youth’ that also finds a companion in the later proggy ‘Siesta (for snake)’.

Alas the train leaves the track on the frantic ‘Maniac’ which is a misstep and as irritatingly as a large bluebottle in the kitchen when cooking dinner. This is also compounded by the problem that many songs on the album follow a similar pattern and the search for different shade is an issue although the gentle ‘In a motel’ one of the albums highlights does partially address this deficiency. Alas ‘Yesterday, never’ finds them rummaging around in the wardrobe and finding a garment that carries a strong whiff of The Strokes , equally ‘Ketamine and Ecstasy’ is a formula CYHSY taken from a template they have used far too often.

It is on the final two tracks however where the band worry less about mainstream appeal and more about songs that things come together in a way that acts as a clear pointer for their future direction. Penultimate track ‘the Witness’s Dull Surprise’ is a melodic piano driven wonder and accompanied by Ounsworth’s best vocal conveying latent regret and building to a thumping driving conclusion. Finally ‘Adams plane’ is a seven minute plus epic which shows that the band can offer up songs of emotional substance which build to an
explosive climax of almost Wilco style ‘Hotel Yankee Foxtrot’ era proportions. On balance ‘Hysterical’ is a welcome return for a band that could have easily hung up their tools and walked away. Granted they suffer somewhat in comparisons to newer US bands such as War on Drugs , White Denim and Dirty Projectors who have effectively marked their territory in the long four year hiatus, but Hysterical marks a real effort to regain lost ground and for the large part it succeeds.

Band website.