Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

"When we signed our souls over to the devil, he promised us this would happen," singer Alec Ounsworth said in December 2005, when the buzz about his arty Brooklyn band was turning into a roar. "This" turned out to be commercial success so modest (both their albums missed the top 20 here and in America) that they should consider asking the devil for a refund. But if Old Nick's side of the deal was simply to make them prominent in an indie context, he has done his bit. In the online world, which discovered them first, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are proper stars. It's standing room only here, and quite a few people are singing along to songs that only the committed could love.

While the band's high profile testifies to the power of MySpace and blogging, their sound points backward, to the pre-internet era. Echoes of Talking Heads and New York's 1970s "no wave" scene are discernible in the dissonance of a typical Clap song. Talking Heads minus the melodies, that is - this is not a band who put much stock in choruses. And they have the courage of their convictions: on the second number, Satan Said Dance, they are already hunkering down for a discordant 10-minute improv session. Each of the four backing members seems to be playing a slightly different song, loosely stitched together by Ounsworth's yapping, David Byrne-ish vocal. Nice work if you can get it.

Still, there are things to enjoy among the sharp angles and scratchy surfaces. Goodbye to Mother and the Cove, from the current album Some Loud Thunder, has them really letting their hair down - it incorporates megaphone, xylophone and a brass trio, who forget themselves and dance. Everyone pitches in, grabbing whatever instrument is handy, stacking sound upon sound. It's a monument to the power of cutting loose, and at this point, as the set ends, the devil really does have the best tunes.

Contributor

Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
CD: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

(Witchita Recordings)

Betty Clarke

20, Jan, 2006 @12:04 AM

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

They sound like they can't be bothered but there's pop nous under the Brooklyn boys' studied cool, says Craig McLean.

Craig McLean

22, Jan, 2006 @12:37 AM

Article image
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to split?
The Brooklyn yelpers may soon become Clap Your Hands Say No, if blog speculation about their demise is to be believed

Sean Michaels

22, Jan, 2009 @11:33 AM

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Hysterical – review
The arty New York quintet's attempt to crossover is hampered by a dearth of hooks, writes Phil Mongredien

Phil Mongredien

10, Sep, 2011 @11:09 PM

Article image
CD: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Some Loud Thunder

(Wichita)

Maddy Costa

19, Jan, 2007 @12:00 AM

CD: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Some Loud Thunder

The first album was no fluke, says Emma Warren. Brooklyn's indie kings have refined their music and retained its joyful deviance.

Emma Warren

21, Jan, 2007 @12:19 AM

Article image
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: The Tourist review – teetering on the edge of hysteria

Harriet Gibsone

23, Feb, 2017 @9:15 PM

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Metro, London

Metro, London

Betty Clarke

16, Nov, 2005 @12:23 PM

Article image
CD: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones

(Fiction)

Dave Simpson

24, Mar, 2006 @12:25 AM

Pop CDs: Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins

Pop CDs: Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins | Clap Your Hands Say Yeah | Richard Ashcroft | Jens Lekman

Kitty Empire and Lynsey Hanley

22, Jan, 2006 @2:18 AM