Now here’s a good start to 2006: the eponymous debut album of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is finally getting its European release. Until now, the cheerily-monikered Brooklyn five-piece have made do by promoting their record via the internet and selling it themselves via mail order, but there’s only a certain number of envelopes musicians can seal before they either get a proper record deal or end up sending themselves on an office admin training course (around 25,000 envelopes usually does the trick). Anyway, brace yourself for a flood of hyperbolic “the internet is going to kill the record industry!” Arctic Monkeys-type comparisons.
In some ways, CYHSY are already pretty big, selling out shows without breaking a sweat and giving indie-children the shakes with their mix of underground cool and overground potential. Worth the fuss though?
Well, you should certainly delay judgement for two minutes after pressing play: the misleading opener, sounding as it does like Tom Waits drunkenly yelling at people in a fairground, is a bit of a decoy. But we’re soon hit with the startling vocals of singer Alec Ounsworth, sounding like a Pablo Honey-era Thom Yorke nursing an anaesthetised jaw. It’s a unique style that, against the odds, works brilliantly, despite the fact that Ounsworth seems to have some kind of personal vendetta against consonants.
Though the band purportedly have a jazz background, God help them, they’ve fortunately crushed their chin-stroking tendencies for something more like a jangly Smashing Pumpkins with lashings of Joy Division bass. But the great moments come courtesy of the frontman, whether it’s his lurching repetition of “child stars” on Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood or the great “yalalaDavverBowee” (“you look like David Bowie”) bit on Over And Over Again (Lost & Found). The brilliant Heavy Metal – why are track 8s always so good? – may be a contender for chorus of the year, but it’s Ounsworth’s indecipherable slur that really makes it.
It’s a cracking record, though it’ll have elocution squads everywhere weeping for the rest of 2006 over such slack-jawed singing. Everyone else will be cheering, or – yes – clapping our hands and saying