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Some Loud Thunder

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

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Album Review

A ton of people had their eyes trained on this sophomore release and it's difficult to give it a fair shake once you've muled-up to the "pre-order" download carrot and subsequent hype. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's debut was a decent, giddy first album — not the end-all, be-all, "best indie release ever" that it was willed to be by fans and critics. It was just a good record that fortunate events conspired to elevate beyond its own scope and capabilities. It was over-hyped, plain and simple, and (lord bless 'em) the guys in CYHSY soldiered through it all, and seemed well enough armored to take the gushing praise, smile politely, stick it under their collective hat and then get back to doing what they were doing. This is significant because history says that once your band is hyped that much, you're usually toast. Heads get big, sights get set too high and direction is lost. It's sad, but it's often the way these kinds of "best debut ever" stories play themselves out. The proof in the pudding is, without fail, the second record, with all of its anticipated greatness. Will it exceed expectations? Will it be a blunder? Sometimes it all hinges on number two, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's debut follow-up, Some Loud Thunder, comes to plate, visibly sweating under the strain and stress. The opening song (and title track) "Some Loud Thunder," immediately divides the fan base with insanely compressed and distorted production that makes the rest of producer Dave Fridmann's work sound like purist, two-mic, chamber ensemble recordings. It's waaaaaay over the top (it actually physically hurts to listen to it) — it's not heavy, it's painful — and that will make it or break it for some folks right there. Hold up though, remember their debut recording started off with some crazy carnival banter — maybe this is just the weird opener here? It is. There's nothing else on the album that gets to "Some Loud Thunder"'s level of "ouch" and there's even a "non-distorto" version of the tune floating around the download sites for those who can't take the pain. Get past that, and you start getting into the real stuff — the bulk of which tends toward meandering tension builders that never really take off. Free from label prodding (and polishing) the guys in CYHSY seem to spend a great deal of this album screwing around on trumpets, accordions and prepared pianos. It sure sounds like they indulged every overdub whim that could be conceived and, at times, it's a bit off-putting for the listener. "Quit screwing around and get back to work...please!" Really, that's good solid advice because when CYHSY apply themselves, good stuff happens. The meandering tension builders ("Emily Jean Stock," "Love Song No. 7," the indulgent instrumental "Upon Encountering the Crippled Elephant," "Goodbye to Mother and the Cove" and "Five Easy Pieces") all have their moments but there's definitely an unfinished and tentative feel here. It sounds like a band accompanying a singer/songwriter who can't fully let go of that riveting coffee house spotlight. On the aforementioned songs, you could strip away all the incidental noodling and end up with a decent singer/songwriter record. It seems, in an effort to sound more sophisticated (read, serious) CYHSY have kind of taken a step backward. It's not all like this though. There are moments of brilliance, both musically and lyrically, and they are all contained in the tunes that are the most realized. "Mama, Won't You Keep Them Castles in the Air and Burning?"makes this list, if only for the thoughtful lyrics of Alec Ounsworth. "Arm and Hammer" is where things really start to coalesce. There's still a lot of spontaneous creativity at work here, but it's wrangled in enough to give the tune a sense of purpose. Lyrically, this one's on a mission and it succeeds in being a nice, bitter "F***k Off!!" as well as an affirming manifesto. "Yankee Go Home" is quite good — maybe the most fully realized thing on the whole album. Great melody, great lyrics, somewhat more refined overdub coloration — and it's got guts. "Papa said get used to it/Papa said it gets so goddam hard but I get used to it" and "I'm calling upon North Carolina to help me out here" are but two of the fine bits of lyric on "Yankee..." and, when this song builds up to it's blow-out chorus, it sincerely rocks. "Satan Said Dance" certainly has the goods to be an indie-kid party bopper. All dissonant, demented disco bounce (à la the Cure) with that "guaranteed to raise an eyebrow" refrain of "Satan, Sa-tan, Satan, Satan, Sa-tan." It's fun, well played and slightly unsettling, a perfect disjointed dance number, but Ounsworth's lyrics here seem throwaway and that, sadly, lends the tune an air of novelty. "Underwater (You and Me)" also barely makes this list — helped in large part by Ounsworth's good lyric work, but hindered by a decidedly demo-ish sheen. Half the album is guilty of this, while the other half seems light-years ahead in the band development department. Is this an "age of the digital download" thing? Are CYHSY banking on a few "out of album context" downloaded singles to buoy this record? If they are, and it works out, it could be one of the most forward thinking business plans ever. ~ J. Scott McClintock, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Nothing is wrong here, just a little disappointing.

It is your usual recipie for disaster for a sophomore outing, major hype the first time around and a record that live up to its hype and then some that embeds itself in your consciousness, rattles around and won't let go... fans eagrely await the second outing and the band, no longer toiling in obscurity, produces something solid, but markedly different from what one would expect from the first disc. This album is good, unfortunately, the first one was great and suffers by comparison. If this is your first taste of CYHSY, you'll love it, if you love the band you'll love it, if you're hoping for something as catchy as the debut, expect disappointment.

i love it

this album is far from disappointing. it doesn't feel as awkwardly upbeat as the first one; it seems more melancholy, more introspective, and in my opinion, more heartbreakingly beautiful. it has a tighter, more produced feel to it but it has loads of presence and real-ness. An interesting evolution. nice work boys.

Fine Follow-Up

"Some Loud Thunder" is an excellent album; it's not as consistent as "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah," but features some great tunes, with rich harmonies, fine acoustic guitar, and spacey effects. It's different than the debut, for sure, but in a lot of ways almost as good. It's not as upbeat or as instantly arresting, but repeated listens pay off. This is a really good record, and if you found the first album interesting, then you certainly will find much to like about this one too.

Biography

Formed: 2004 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

In the middle of 2005, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were being touted as the hottest unsigned act in America. The band's self-titled debut — a collection of off-center indie rock songs and quirky pop tunes — was self-produced, self-released, self-promoted, and self-distributed, with a great deal of help from a wide network of bloggers and Internet supporters. There was so much online interest in the band that NPR even did a feature on the emerging phenomena of Internet band buzz, using CYHSY...
Full bio

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