[ALBUM REVIEW] Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Only Run
That old familiar wail. The nostalgia that takes over when I hear Alec Ounsworth's voice make its first post-pubescent break of the record is undeniable. They're back.
For me, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah symbolise the beauty of imperfection. They are that wild, unleashed burst of passion that occasionally breaks through the jingly, jangly world of indie rock. Not substantial enough to be grouped into a heavier genre, but enough to remember that noise and disorder still have a place in the hearts of us mid-to-late-twenties ex-punks. Us who have kind of grown out of that phase of our lives but still secretly revel in all that indie-rock was once born from.
The steady build-up of the first song on the album, "As Always" gradually lifts you up in to a guitar-clambering world of noise until it drops you suddenly into it's last few moments of acoustic revelation. Ounsworth's tremble of a voice catches you as you fall off the edge of that ascending build-up.
"Blameless" has many hints of older CYHSY, but with more reverb and haze, as if you're playing one of their old records really early in the morning through an old echoey speaker.
When Ounsworth speak-sings in "Coming Down" I can't help but make Nick Cave comparisons, only to be paired with moments of Brandon Flowers (The Killers)-like preaching vocals. I have to admit here that the initial intro of the song vaguely disappoints me, and parts of the deep muttering seem a bit contrived, but the cameo from Matt Berninger (The National) extinguishes whatever doubts I had.
Making more comparisons, because that seems to be the only thing I am capable at this time of morning, I hear hints of one of my favourite musicians, Finn Andrews (The Veils), in parts of "Only Run". His slow, despondent, warbling voice is one that I find comforting. It creates and all-encompassing atmosphere, as the layers of harmonies build upon each other.
"Little Memories" is a momentary effort to incorporate electronic music, and again I can't help but think I'm listening to The Killers for a few moments. Perhaps the inclusion of synth and samples on this album is due to the recent departure of 3 of the 5 band members; leaving Ounsworth and drummer Sean Greenhalgh to piece together the missing sounds and instruments.
For most of the intro of "Your Advice" I find myself trying to figure out whether it is a man or woman speaking. I still don't know. The stand-out lyrics "I miss the comfort of your chains, and I miss the comfort of being insane" capture my attention as the rest of the song slowly fazes in and out behind them. There seem to be subtle influences of the kings of indie rock here - Radiohead.
"Impossible Request" comforts me in a way I can't explain in words. Maybe it's when he chants "please don't ask me where I'm going, I'll tell you I never know" that consoles me into thinking I'm not the only one who is terrible at making plans and sticking to them. That there are other wanderers out there, roaming around, older than me, who still don't like people asking what they are doing and where they are going, because it blatantly highlights the fact that sometimes, often times, we don't know. I mean, yes I am on a train from San Jose to San Francisco to go home, pack my bag and head off to Tahoe for the weekend, and next weekend I think I will be in Mexico, but beyond that, to be honest, who knows.
The album winds down like an old gramophone, with some warbled jazz, voices muttering and chairs clattering, before clashing into an echoed drum beat, as if you just stepped into a large hall. "Cover Up" is a dramatic and slow building closer to the album, and leaves you feeling aurally satisfied as it's last trembling warble fades out.