I'm not always sure where my music choices come from, nor can I understand why I'm so adamant to analyze and defend them. Many music enthusiasts get downright ugly if you even hint at showing disregard for something they love, yet I guess that's just a distinct trait of those who take their music seriously. But for us jaded listeners that pledge devotion to the avant-garde and noise albums of today, is it still possible for us to like good ol' wholesome pop music?
New York's newest underground party pack Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is a band teetering on the fence of obscurity and stardom, with so much hype that even David Bowie is showing up to their gigs. Their self-titled (and self-released) debut is an album which will force even the most hardened listeners to throw in the towel. And it's about fucking time!!! I, for one, have needed a great pop record for a very long time. This is perfect timing, too, because I've been pretty disenchanted with what's happened in 2005 so far.
On the album's intro, "Clap Your Hands," I'm reminded of what it might be like if Jack White sang during the 7th Inning stretch of a Cubs game. It swiftly leads into the first proper song, called "Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away," where we're met with perfectly paced pop and quaint, yet familiar sounding, vocals from Alec Ounsworth. While many are quick to dismiss him as Byrne derivative, I'm more inclined to compare him to a shakier live version of Thom Yorke. Nevertheless, I find Ounsworth to be quite original in terms of distinction, someone who will certainly make a name for himself in the months to come. His band mates better watch out, too.
While I won't challenge that "Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)" could be quickly labeled a second coming of the Talking Heads, I'll admit that I find it more enjoyable than just about anything they ever recorded. The carefree approach in which this song takes is enough to give credibility to the band's gift to be original. "Details of the War," a decisive favorite of the TMT staff, changes route for a moment to show a more emotive side to the band's repertoire. Appearing to completely forgo the giddy tone of the album, it takes a step back and gives it to us straight. Or does it?
Where someone might be thrown off by CYHSY is in the vocals of "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth," which admittedly, are somewhat peculiar. But after nearly two listens to the song, you begin to realize that the instrumentation is equally as interesting and important to the juxtaposition of their sound. I might add here, while we're on the subject, that it's the juxtaposition of sounds that truly makes Clap Your Hands Say Yeah pleasurable.
For my personal favorite song, "In This Home on Ice," I find myself wanting to claim it as the best pop song I've heard in a long damn time. Borrowing equally from early '90s bands like The Sundays and Ride, the faultless tempo and aural textures remind me of all my favorite songs from that time. But please don't ask me to tell you what Ounsworth sings, because I haven't got a fucking clue; nor do I care. It's the feelings of happiness and nostalgia I get from the music that are important to me.
To be honest, the last statement in the previous paragraph is pretty much the overall consensus I have about Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. There's nothing overly inventive about the contents of this disc, and I certainly wouldn't go so far as to call it ground breaking. However, since I don't always find pop albums to be overly enjoyable, I'm excited that this one has allowed me to let my guard down and be reminded that it's still possible for the jaded listener to like good ol' wholesome pop music.
1. Clap Your Hands!
2. Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away
3. Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)
4. Sunshine and Clouds and Everything Proud
5. Details of the War
6. The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth
7. Is This Love?
8. Heavy Metal
9. Blue Turning Gray
10. In This Home on Ice
11. Gimme Some Salt
12. Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood