Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s direction since their hallowed self-released first LP has proved perplexing, and the Philly-based band do little to change that perception during this mildly frustrating fourth full-length. Ever since the off-kilter harmonies and abrasive, plate-scraping vocal hooks of that eponymously-titled debut - and we’ll spare you the toil of regurgitating the tale of its much-articulated internet assent - their subsequent efforts continue to represent a nose-dive in quality. Not quality in a production or ability sense - with each record Alec Ounsworth & Co have further shed their shoddy DIY roots, refining a sound that is comprehensibly bolder and sleeker, but this in itself is the overriding problem. Maturity for CYHSY has involved them ironing out their quirks, and the once fidgety, often amateurish, guitar licks seem worlds away from the broad cavernous lines that adorn ‘Only Run’’s airy domain, or that of its glossy predecessor ‘Hysterical’ for that matter. Of course, this coupled with a consistent new penchant for unremarkable melodies and a nagging reliance on synth leads one to point a protruding and wagging finger towards an identity crisis.
In spite of this, opener ‘As Always’ is actually one of the better offerings here; an atmospheric stadium-dweller that immediately resembles ‘Because of the Times’-era KoL. And unlike, say, Win Butler or Matt Berninger – whose distinct baritone decorates the rampant ‘Coming Down’ here – CYHSY leader Alec Ounsworth still feels an ill-fit with sonic ambitions that are either broad or desolate, his coarse tones all the less for being veiled by foggy surrounds or unduly restrained. Of course, combine this grievance with a track like ‘Little Moments’, which optimistically shoots for the moon without ever clawing at the heartstrings, and their core foundations wobble like jelly. Especially considering these moments are linked together by yet more half-baked epics and squandered opportunities – with the exception of the title track, which eerily unravels into something a mite more memorable.
While not unpleasant, there’s little to warrant enduring revisits, and ‘Only Run’’s misfirings ultimately render it somewhat ineffectual. Of course, it would be vacuous and narrow to decry expansion in any musical career, but surely striving needn’t sound so dull? Saddest of all is that, at this rate, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, a band whose initial defining trait was the ability to incite giddiness, are fast emerging as the sort of act that are consistent, but rarely exciting.
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