CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH‘s new record evokes a strange feeling. A feeling that something is wrong, but at first it’s hard to tell what exactly. Maybe it’s because today’s CYHSY are not the CYHSY of the Hysterical time in 2011.
There are only frontman Alec Ounsworth and drummer and keyboardist Sean Greenhalgh left of the former quintet, after the other members decided to focus on other projects.
With the support of producer Dave Fridmann (THE FLAMING LIPS), the missing guitarists were replaced by synths, drum machines and all sorts of technical knick-knack.
It seems that 2013’s EP Little Moments was a harbinger of CYHSY‘s new, unexpected identity. As the opener As Always starts – moaning, with synth lines over raw drums and some clapping and distortion – the album generally continues.
But like the failing relationships the lyrics (often cryptic and fragmentary) focus on, many of the tracks don’t work properly either. There is slight disappointment and a question mark hanging over songs like Your Advice, that even cause a kind of physical reaction, a contraction somewhere between the brain and the ears.
It’s the gulf between Ounsworth’s singing and the musical concept, or rather idea, that makes Only Run less convincing than the former records. It just doesn’t fit.
At a recent living room concert, Ounsworth proved that he is great with the acoustic guitar and the harmonica. A little more of that and less of all that lo fi synth and noise rock mess would have been a benefit for the album.
The title track and the nervous Blameless sound like the band was just playing with the mixing desk and not really caring about what would come of it.
On the other side songs like the wistful Beyond Illusion or the wild banging Coming Down stand out due to a stunning strength and sharpness. The latter features THE NATIONAL‘s Matt Berninger whose voice is a pleasant contrast to Ounsworth’s nasal tone.
These tracks don’t compensate the half-baked impression Only Run makes, but lead to the optimistic assumption that CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH haven’t completely lost their orientation on their way to their new identity.
If CYHSY had given each song a proper direction, with priority either to singing-songwriting or to indietronica, ‘Only Run’ could have been far more convincing than it is right now.
NBHAP Rating: 2.5/5