Thursday, December 1, 2011

Show review: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at Lincoln Hall, 11/29

By Gene Wagendorf III

CYHSY's Alec Ounsworth and Lee Sargent on "Misspent Youth"

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah took the stage at Lincoln Hall Tuesday night seemingly intent on confirming everything notion of them that I had going in. They're uplifting, occasionally boring, sometimes danceable and impossible to win an argument about.

Touring to promote their third and most recent release, Hysterical, the band Ponged between that new material and tracks from their first two albums. CYHSY have a pretty distinct timbre and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried that the set would wind up melting into a semi-repetitive blur of soothing sounds and whiny vocals. My worries were quelled early as the group rumbled through a broody version of "Satan Said Dance" that featured spelunking drums and a swollen bass line. That percussion then tumbled through "Gimme Some Salt," a skitterish, chunky jam slicked with low, grimy guitars. Normally bands that pull such scuzzy sounds from their instruments are fronted my mutton-chopped ghouls with bellowing voices, which made the nasal la-di-da of frontman Alec Ounsworth even more refreshing.

In a genius bit of setlisting, the aforementioned songs were followed by the twinkling narrative of "Misspent Youth." Probably the strongest of the new songs played, it gave me the same warm, pastel feeling I get from watching Lost in Translation. Ounsworth's lyrics, when decipherable, tend to lean toward interesting goofball stuff. This only makes his more poetic moments more convincing, as I found myself mesmerized while he sang there's a permanence to the memory of a bruise/ and I still take it on the chin/ for you. You're falling in love too, aren't you?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have the girls swooning
The opening chords of  "In This Home of Ice" sounded far more grand live thanks to Lincoln Hall's pristine acoustics. This wasn't lost on the band, as at one point Ounsworth admitted being a tad intimidated by everything sounding "a bit too perfect up here." Apt phrasing, as moments of the show felt less like a rock concert and more like sacrament. I don't mean to get lost in hyperbole. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah wasn't exactly divine, but the atmosphere jived awkwardly with the fact that someone was burping Miller Lite next to me all night. The layered guitars that sculpted that mood came courtesy of Robbie Guertin and Lee Sargent, whose crystal swirls and balmy leads gave life to "Over and Over Again," an otherwise unspectacular song.

The main set concluded with two tracks from CYHSY's eponymous debut, "Is This Love?" and "Heavy Metal." The former was the highlight of the night; its trampoline verses and tilt-a-whirl chorus frolicked over the same snappy drumming that had the whole crowd dancing. I can't help but think that that's what recess would be like if the playground were littered with giddy 9-5ers. That's right, not only am I covering a rock show, I'm crafting a utopia for all of us. You can thank me when your job gives you 30 minutes of playtime. The dance party turned to collective pogo-sticking during "Heavy Metal," another song that never really stood out to me. The band looked most into this song however, even infusing it with a bit of Clash-like swagger. I know that's high praise, but it was also the second time in the night I thought that CYHSY sounded a smidge more punk than expected. Who knew?

The encore proved to be the only moment where I thought Clap Your Hands truly stumbled. "Adam's Plane" was a sort of bloated acoustic number that sounded like I should be taking it seriously, but mostly I was just bored. "Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood" ended the night, and though I was looking forward to hearing it earlier it sounded like it was missing something. What might have been a charming ramble early just felt like muddle with obnoxious yipping. An unfortunate end to what was an otherwise great show, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah probably reinforced a bit more love than they gained, but they sure as hell couldn't have lost any.


Check out more show reviews:
Austra, Young Galaxy, Tasseomancy at Empty Bottle
Prince Rama, Indian Jewelry at Subterranean
Shonen Knife at the Empty Bottle
Mister Heavenly at Subterranean
Supreme Cuts, Memoryhouse, Balam Acab at the Empty Bottle

No comments:

Post a Comment