Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah You've undoubtedly heard of these guys by now. They're all over the Net, and if you don't have a computer, someone who does told you about them. Their story is as much a testament to the power of the grassroots-indie-blog machine as it is a sign of crumbling major-label authority. Self-released, self-promoted, and self-distributed (right down to licking the stamps), Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's self-titled debut is well on its way to selling a respectable 40,000 copies as this review goes to press -- and they don't even have a record contract. These Brooklyn-based boys like it that way, too.

If there were ever a band who could do a cover of Sinatra's "My Way," and mean it, it's these guys. Theirs is a template for success that every budding Shins or Modest Mouse could do well to follow: work hard, practice hard, play well, and write good songs -- the rest will take care of itself. And it did. Heavy hype on the Internet had the guys sending copies of this album to the four corners, just as they were settling into being a band, and when the labels came knocking, these guys just said, "Thank you, we're fine." They are fine. Fine and fun. Their sound is evocative of nearly every indie band you've ever heard of -- enough to flick a switch somewhere in your head, but not enough to call them guilty of derivation. A list could be made here, but it would be this reviewer's list -- yours would probably look a lot different, and that's fine, too. You might find Talking Heads in there, while someone else hears early solo John Cale. Or you may find Neutral Milk Hotel where someone else finds some Joy Division. It doesn't matter, because that's precisely the band's strongest suit -- their ability to sound immediately familiar to everyone while, simultaneously, shrugging off any attempts at direct comparison. If a warbly alto makes you David Byrne, then, yes, there's that aspect of Alec Ounsworth's voice to be reckoned with, but Clap Your Hands Say Yeah deserve better than first impression labeling like this.

They simply have made a good record here -- one that a great deal of people will find an enjoyable listen. The album opener, "Clap Your Hands!" mixes starry-eyed hopefulness with drunken abandon and serves as a "Step right up!" invitation to join the fellas on their merry ride. It sounds like nothing else on the record, like a weird intro for a mixtape -- a scratchy carnival record with the barker announcing the beginning of side one. What follows is good stuff. Poppy, '80s-tinged, and hooky as hell, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's debut certainly makes for pleasant listening. Those who have read the blogs and heard the hype might well be expecting the second coming. These people will be disappointed and post morose reviews on Amazon: "I was expecting sooooo much, but this album is only 'good.'" That's right! It's good. Not magnificent, not groundbreaking, but it is a new band's first album, and it is good -- darn good. There's a ton of potential here -- in the songwriting, the musicianship -- and it will be interesting to see if Clap Your Hands Say Yeah can Teflon-coat themselves against all the ballyhoo and continue to be impressive on their own terms.