CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Wichita)

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are a Brooklyn-based quintet who stirred up much “great unsigned band”-type hype amongst the indie bloggerati, producing, releasing, promoting and distributing their self-titled 2005 debut entirely on their own terms, initially at least. It’s since been followed by this year’s sophomore “Some Loud Thunder”.

Your chances of appreciating Clap Your Hands Say Yeah depend almost totally on your reaction to Alec Ounsworth’s voice. It’s a divisive instrument, and it might be too difficult to suppress the suspicion that his singing style is a bleating parody of David Byrne’s – I dare you not to flinch when he strikes up for first time – excepting the carney barking acid nursery rhyme introduction “Clap Your Hands!” - on “Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away”. In fact, their music’s so jerky and quirky and laden with catchphrases and the aroma of self-made mythology that you’d have to be pretty charitable not to believe that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are some kind of early Talking Heads tribute band.

Still, drill down into the substance of “Clap Your Hands Say Yeah” and there are some pleasant discoveries to be made. Vocals aside, “Over And Over Again (Lost And Found)” is lovely, wearing a slow motion tumble of a keyboard riff and lyrics like “You look like David Bowie / But you’ve nothing new to show me”. The gorgeous “Details Of The War” rumbles with underlying, unidentified threat: I’ve read comparisons with the works of John Cale, and they seem pretty accurate to me. With a thumping percussion line that sounds like its been cloned from the collected works of Stephen Morris and some slashing guitar that’s very Bernard Sumner, it slowly dawns that “The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth” is a colossal New Order tribute, heavily referencing the band’s sound circa 1982/3, when they were shrugging off Ian Curtis’ ghost and developing their patented brand of edgy Eurodisco. “In This Home On Ice” is delicious: layer upon layer of woozy guitars, double-tracking smoothing the edge off Ounsworth’s singing and a quaint, late-60s drum pattern. “Sunshine And Clouds (And Everything Proud)” and “Blue Turning Gray” are brief but welcome instrumental (i.e. bereft of singing!) palate fresheners, and it must take monumental confidence to open a song (the rather fine “Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood”) with the lines “Now that everybody’s here/Could we please have your attention?”. At least it’s not the first track.

“Clap Your Hands Say Yeah” doesn’t sustain this level of brilliance over its entire 39 minutes – “Gimme Some Salt”, for example, is dull and draggy – and at times it unleashes an ear-syringingly sharp top end that can make it sound a bit confrontational. Oh, and did I mention the singing? Thought so. If it’s not everything countless bloggers have ever claimed it to be, it remains a fun and intriguing listen, provided a sweet and melodious vocalist isn’t a prerequisite.