Hype Made The Bomb: Some Loud Thunder
Clap your hands say "eh."
By Barnaby Monk 02.08.07
The follow-up to Brooklyn quintet Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's eponymous self-titled debut is a study in patience, or devotion, if you're so inclined. And I admit, I was so inclined, finding the immediacy, energy, and wit of their debut almost as fulfilling as the hype that surrounded it. And though that was a tall fucking order, the record is every bit as engaging today as when I first spun it two years ago. I really wanted CYHSY's follow-up, Some Loud Thunder , to explode expectations and split their stock, and from a certain angle, it does do that. Unfortunately, holding my head at that angle for too long fucks with my kinesthesia.
Though I believe you can get used to anything, a necessary muscle for those of us sifting through quirky indie rock for a palpable groove, Alec Ounsworth's voice has become a real sticking point.his nasal wailing is not so much an acquired taste, here, as an acquired aftertaste. Though the writing is strong, if cryptic, and melodies inviting, if not as singalongable as the debut's, the gnarl of Ounsworth's tone and cadence is giving me unnatural loads of ear wax. In the interest of fairness, though, the dude's no more affected than, say, Will Oldham, not more unrefined than Stephen Malkmus, and certainly no more annoying than Dylan or Petty or Byrne (to whom he's often compared). Well, not much more annoying.
Music critic Andrew Purcell, in a January 12 review on Independent Online, wrote, "Two years ago, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah rewrote the rules of pop music, but this won't save them from the kicking that's coming their way." Let it be known, mine's a half-hearted kicking -- I'm only wearing socks, and they're, like, touring on other planets. So, yeah, it's gonna hurt me way more than it hurts them.
So but I guess it's time take the disc to task, which was co-produced, by the way, by mighty Mercury Revver and Flaming Lip guru, Dave Fridmann. You know, the guy with his finger on the overdrive button. And, man, he must've held that sucker down on the opening title track. "Some Loud Thunder," under all that fuzzed-up twizzle twaddle, is what sounds to be a perfectly tuneful pop-rock song. The tone reminds me of when I used to blast "Smoke on the Water" on my little K-tel record player. Except the song doesn't sound anything like "Smoke on the Water," and we're now in, um, the digital age. A lot of people are going to pull the disc from their player on this one to look for scratches or detritus. There ain't any. It's art! Albeit, microwavable art. (Hey, look, I just coined a cultural catch phrase.)
Fridmann and Ounsworth are a little more selective with the overdrive on the remainder of the disc, and, in fact, that bombast highlights the second track, "Emily Jean Stock," which is a love song of sorts. The guitar grunts and drum implosions are countered by a clarion bell, steady acoustic strum, and handclaps, and Ounsworth sings a perfectly baked potato under all his vocal sour cream. The second, third, and fourth tracks revisit some of the more dulcet moments of the band's debut. Imminently listenable. Indeed, singalongable (if I can use that nonword just this one more time).
Recommend broad jumping right over track five, "Satan Said Dance." I know a lot of rock-roll crit types think this one's the "centerpiece" of the record, but fuck that; it's a weak approximation of electro dance goo gaw, and indie geeks can't dance. That's why their indie geeks!
You can pretty much toss tracks six and eight as well. I don't know what they're called, and I suppose I should go get the disc at this point, but I've had several vodka tonics, and, honestly, I don't remember where I parked my truck. Though not bad songs -- for the likes of Beirut or Castanets -- on this disc they just sound.contrived.or worse, like they were just futzing around on my dime. Well, I'm not having it.
I like track seven, though, sandwiched in between them cuts, with opening lines "She smiles/ Then she laughs and then/ She rights the wheel/ On the road again/ While all you fear are her thighs." (I must like this one to recall all those words like that.) And track nine, "Yankee Go Home," I feel, comes closest to my now warm expectations of CYHSY. It's sort of a follow-up to the propulsive "Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth," the toughest, tightest track off the first disc.
Track ten (again, can't remember the name -- it has something to do with being underwater, though) has this really cool, Yo La Tengo-style undulating bass run that totally complements Ounsworth's ululating voice box. Ululating, that's a word, innit?
There might be another song after that one, I'm not sure. It's obviously forgettable if there is. Whatever. I gotta go lay down. This writing thing is a lot harder than it seems.
My take on Some Loud Thunder : one hand clapping.
'Fore I quit, dear reader, I have to prop up another white elephant in Clap Your Hands' stead, just cuz I feel if you're gonna kick someone, you should prob'bly go kiss someone else to remain, you know, karmically cool.. Uh, therefore, my new white elephant will be. wait for it .Dr. Dog. (I know, lame name.) Their new-ish EP "Takers and Leavers" (Park the Van Records) is a sweet little disc that expands on the sound of their first album, Easy Beat . They sound kind of like a hopped-up, garage-y Beatles, so if that's not your cup of Darjeeling, well, I guess, never mind. Anyways, I'm pretty stoked about their second proper record due out this summer. So.go.like them now. Go on.