It’s time to shine the Vinyl Spotlight! Every now and then on Paloozapalooza, I like to focus on a random LP from my collection. This week, we have:
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (2005)
A lot of “it” indie rock bands came and went in the early 2000s. After the Strokes and the White Stripes made it big, it seemed like both journalists and young, energetic fans were dying to discover the next big thing. Some of those acts—the Vines, for instance—received a ton of hype right out of the gates, but never really delivered. Others, like the Rapture, had some time in the spotlight before slowly fading back into relative obscurity.
One of my favorite records from that era is Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s self-titled, self-released debut. The band, led by frontman Alec Ounsworth, scored a positive review for the album from Pitchfork and was suddenly the talk of the town. The CD sold so well that they famously had to manufacture more copies, David Byrne and David Bowie saw them perform live … it was all happening at once for these guys.
I specifically remember that Pitchfork review coming out and people starting to talk about the band almost immediately. Have you heard Clap Your Hands Say Yeah? Yeah, did you see that review? It’s so good! Ugh, it’s so overrated! Everyone had a hot take and they were ready to share it as much as they could.
What it comes down to, of course, is the music, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is a fun, terrific record. After a quick one-minute intro track, the band kicks things off properly with “Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away,” which is a great representation of their overall sound. The songs Ounsworth was writing at the time were straightforward yet just “off” enough that they didn’t sound like the work of every other hip New York band, and he really nailed that unaffected Byrne-like delivery so many young singers had at the time.
One of my favorite parts of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has always been the one-two punch of “Sunshine and Clouds (and Everything Proud)”—yet another interlude, this one built around what sounds like a toy piano— and “Details of the War,” a slow-burning track that revolves around a grooving bass part and some unexpected harmonica work. The interlude segues right into “Details of the War,” building a bit of tension before Ounsworth has even opened his mouth.
Other highlights include the catchy “The Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth,” and “Is This Love?” a quick three-minute pop song built around a looping synth part.
And then, of course, there’s “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood.” which closes the album and is its best song by a considerable margin. This is where everything came together for the band, where their sloppy, ramshackle, self-produced sound suddenly matured and showed listeners what they were truly capable of at their peak. Now that everybody’s here, Ounsworth sings.
Could we please have your attention?/ There is nothing left to fear/ No now that bigfoot is captured! Ounsworth and company put it all together with “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood,” and if they had put out an entire album at that level, we’d be looking at a straight-up masterpiece in the same vein as Arcade Fire’s Funeral. As it stands, though, their debut is still a hell of an album. And listening today, 12 years after it was first released, I can honestly say that it holds up better than a lot of the other indie rock music that came out around that same time.
The band sadly never did a whole lot else after this (Ounsworth’s 2009 solo record, Mo Beauty, is worth hearing) but Clap Your Hands Say Yeah still sounds fantastic. If you’ve never heard this one, I highly recommend you seek it out. You might just have a new favorite indie record.
Listen below …
**One quick side note: in 2015, the band pressed Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on bright orange vinyl to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Seek it out!