Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Album Review: Some Loud Thunder

Released in 2005, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's eponymous debut came during a time the snobbish indie taste makers were still using the Internet without self consciousness. Meaning even someone like myself quickly learned of the luminous praise for the idiosyncratic band from Brooklyn and Philly that was -- suddenly -- underground and mainstream.

Skeptic as I am, I dismissed this new kind of hype and the band with the strange name. Finally, after prompting from ear-witnesses I actually knew in the original world, I downloaded it. Damned if didn't justify every word that had been posted about it. The album is a classic. If there has been a better rock album this millennium, I'd like to hear it.

CYHSY's second album, Some Loud Thunder, was released yesterday amongst less fanfare. Some of the singles have been available on the net for months, but they weren't overwhelming enough to spark the band's original advocates into action.

The album begins with the the title track, and it is a very good song. The only problem is someone -- maybe new producer Dave Friedman of Flaming Lips' production fame -- has added distortion to most of the song's tracks. It sounded so off that, being the first song, I thought there was something wrong with my download.

One of my favorite things about the first album was how clean it sounded. Each note pierced and stood on its own. But, as the first song demonstrates in the extreme, the follow up is a much murkier affair. This is an unnecessarily self-inflected wound.

Nevertheless the first half of the new album is quite good, culminating in Satan Said Dance, a tribal disco stomp begging to be remixed ten ways to the nearest discotech. It is also the only song that would stand out on the first album.

The second half of the album is not good. It's not that it's bad. I even suspect, over time, I will begin to like the two longer songs that close the album. The problem is lead singer Alec Ounsworth's jumpy sarcastic wail, which intrigued me so much the first time around that my favorite part of the album might be him repeating the phrase "child stars" (although it sounds like a million other things) over and over for 45 seconds, just sounds bored this time out.

I'd still recommend this album to anyone who liked the first, and recommend the first to anyone who likes music.

But it's hard for me to judge this album on its own merits: I may be overrating it because it reminds me of something great, or I may be underrating it because it doesn't remind me enough.

I'll just give it a B and move on.

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