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Indie rock band releases new album and plays Notre Dame

Joe Lattal | Friday, September 23, 2005

So many things have contributed to the eruption of the indie rock genre in the past few years. The iPod helped. The staleness of the abused nu-metal and alt-rock genres helped. The surprising amount of exposure given to the genre by typical mainstream outlets such as MTV and commercial radio helped.

But what stole the spotlight for today’s indie rock heroes, such as Interpol, Franz Ferdinand and The Decemberists, is the amount of imagination that the best bands in the genre have put into each verse, lyric and note.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is the next example of a band in the genre that put out their album at the right time. The explosion of indie rock and its accessible stepchild, Pitchfork Media, are the primary explanations for the New York band’s impressive success.

Don’t believe it? Try getting a ticket to see the band in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston or anywhere in Canada. All shows are sold out. But if you’re looking for a chance to catch Clap Your Hands, you are in luck. They will be on campus Saturday night.

Once you hear the album, it’s easy to understand why everyone is clapping and saying “yeah.” By the end of the opener “Clap Your Hands,” you are unsure whether you just walked into a circus or a Baptist preacher’s sermon. Backup voices and organ sounds spiral around Alec Ounsworth’s voice commanding to “clap your hands.” The simple-minded track is not the group’s greatest achievement, but it serves the purpose of pulling any listener into the album.

The next track, “Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away,” answers one of these questions. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah wants to have fun in an unconventional way. Ounsworth’s voice takes center stage as percussion is simply tambourine and kick drum and rhythm is the same two chords for three minutes.

“Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)” continues the exercise in simplicity but adds a more active bass line as well as an actual chorus, though it just consists of a few repeated syllables. The songs grow progressively catchier with the addition of keyboards that dig up memories of past Grandaddy and Talking Heads records.

The swift strumming at the start of “Is This Love?” provides a pleasant contrast to the rest of the album’s more deliberate introductions. The song features an addicting, sing-a-long chorus that repeats the song’s title and a celebratory, anthem-like climax at its conclusion.

When the sounds of harmonica and tambourine can be heard in the first measures of a song by the name of “Heavy Metal,” it’s quite a treat. The swirling backup vocals on the track serve as instruments, focusing more on dynamics and melody versus cliché lyrics. The busy chorus flashes in and out between upbeat and catchy verses.

The listener has to dig deep to find the definitive Clap Your Hands song, “In This Home on Ice.” The relaxing chord progression lays over delicate cymbals and drums. The stream of consciousness vocals comfortably complement a tranquil melody: “Now that I’m so sad and not quite right, I could dance all night … let’s just take it slow in this home on ice.”

While Ounsworth doesn’t display much in the way of a vocal range, his soothing voice provides a pleasing contrast to a brilliantly structured and produced album. Each of the 12 tracks is unique and addicting in its own way. From music boxes to conventional indie pop, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah displays the imagination that earned the genre exposure in the popular music spectrum in the first place.

Students at Notre Dame have a unique opportunity to experience the band this Saturday night. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah will play a free show at Legends Sept. 24 at 9:30 p.m.