Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Hysterical

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Hysterical

3/5

2011

After their polarizing sophomore record, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah took an extended break, with little evidence when, or if, they’d ever return. But after a long period of silence—broken up by the occasional live performance and Alec Ounsworth solo record—the band suddenly reemerged with the announcement of Hysterical, their third full-length. This hiatus and reappearance, along with the mixed reaction to 2007’s Some Loud Thunder, means that this is the first CYHSY album to arrive without any excessive hype or pressure. Optimistically, this could mean that this is the record where the band decides to relax and branch out a bit since there aren’t as many troublesome expectations to live up to, and indeed, Hysterical is CHYSY’s most carefully considered batch of music yet. At first, this would appear to me a smart move, reigning in the erratic, meandering tendencies that sometimes marred Some Loud Thunder in favor of something more refined. Unfortunately, John Congleton’s production, while taking advantage of what sounds like an atypically large budget, sucks up most of the band’s manic energy, arguably their most distinctive trait. But the production isn’t solely to blame. Ounsworth’s songs are short on ideas and hooks, arguably his weakest set to date. Sure, there is some diversity here, but while Ounsworth’s decision to write majestic ballads and mid-tempo rockers results in a few lovely moments, these are often drab, lifeless affairs, previously unthinkable from the group that brought us “In This Home On Ice” and “Satan Said Dance.” First the good news: “Same Mistake” and “Hysterical” are joyous romps, even if they’re not quite on the level of past CHYSY highlights; “Ketamine And Ecstasy” injects some of the group’s past energy, and both the propulsive “Into Your Alien Arms” and tender “Adam’s Plane” end in unexpected jams, arguably the hardest the band has ever rocked. But among these isolated moments, the album moves from moody ballad to punchy rocker and back again, all leading to “The Witness’ Dull Surprise,” which has its best descriptor in its title. These tracks are all listenable and have their moments, but they are often predictable and lazy, so even the meandering tracks don’t yield that many interesting ideas, the way they did on Some Loud Thunder. Despite its best efforts, Hysterical never rises above the level of pleasantly conventional. And when you’re Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, sounding “pleasantly conventional” is one of the biggest sins you can make, even if there are enough moments to make this album worthwhile for dedicated fans.

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Posted on September 21, 2011, in Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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