Clap Your Hands Say Yeah finished the UK leg of their European tour with a sold out performance at London’s Village Underground. Having emerged in the mid noughties with an album that redefined the modern independent blueprint, recent release The Tourist (read FMS’ review here) marked a strong return to form for the band and captured much of the magic of that debut, but with darker overtones looming over the album. As band leader and founder, Alec Ounsworth, was writing the album he was going through a period of soul searching, processing personal events and using music as a form of catharsis, and this comes through across the album.
Fittingly, Ounsworth is the focus of the show, as the composer and lyricist of the majority of the band’s music. He stood centre-front, quietly unassuming, underneath simplistic long green lights in the cavernous venue. The live performance brings to life the intricacy of some of Ounsworth’s arrangements, with the support of the band adding a tight rhythm and bass section, driving the tracks forward and allowing the keys and Ounsworth’s intricate guitar work to roam. As a band, their performance levels are relatively low, with limited movement and little talking in between tracks. Instead, they place the music at the forefront of the show.
The setlist is testament to the depth and range of the band’s catalogue, moving through styles with consummate ease. There are dance-along indie classics from their debut (‘Is This Love?’), denser heavier alt inspired tracks (‘As Always’), and experimental moments in the vein of Radiohead (‘Over And Over Again’). Those comparisons are easy when you compare the vocals, both strained and emotive, although Ounsworth has his own distinctive sound, which will undoubtedly divide opinion, as the drawl veers into screech at some points. This is nonetheless a defining feature of CYHSY that fans will no doubt cherish and the set is paced well, moving through artistic phases and styles.
As a band that emerged at the recent high point of indie rock, many of their tracks lack the killer chorus that defined that period, and the work of revered acts such as The Strokes. There are moments, such as ‘The Pilot’ from The Tourist which show the strength of their song writing, but generally they possess a more thoughtful lane rather than baiting the charts with their music. Their songwriting is supported by riffs as on ‘The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth’, which are still capable of getting the feet moving, but some of the subtleties and beauty in tracks like ‘Ambulance Chaser”‘ and ‘The Pilot’, with its glorious rolling bassline, are sadly lost in the big room.
Despite this, the set the band delivers proves the strength and longevity of their career. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are survivors of a different time, when so many of their compatriots have fallen by the wayside. Over time, their sense of performance seems to have grown and the result is a comprehensive and intriguing set, with older tracks in particular pleasing the full house on the night. There are still a number of European dates left through September and October. Dates below and tickets available HERE.
Remaining European Tour Dates
25 – Berghan Kantine, Berlin
27 – Rockhouse, Salzburg
28 – Waves Festival @ WUK, Vienna
29 – Bogen F, Zurich
30 – FRI-Son, Fribourg
03 – Apolo La2, Barcelona
04 – Ram Club La Rambleta, Valencia
05 – Teatro Circo, Murcia
06 – 12ymedio Club, Madrid
07 – Covo Club, Bologna
Words: William Sutton