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Clap Your Hands Makes Some 'Thunder'

Detail from the CD cover of <em>Some Loud Thunder</em>.
Detail from the CD cover of Some Loud Thunder.

The rock band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah released its first record last year, on its own label. But in short order, the Brooklyn-based quintet became an Internet darling. Thousands flocked to the band's MySpace page to hear its songs and buy its CD.

Bloggers also began to hurl extra-large superlatives its way. Pretty soon, major labels came knocking, but the band decided to remain independent.

This week, it is releasing its second record on its own label: Some Loud Thunder.

The CD starts off with distortion, and shows signs of the "thinking-too-much-about-the-second-record" blues. But just when it feels like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is deliberately sabotaging its reputation, along comes the gem "Safe and Sound."

That's pretty much the pattern throughout this maddening and often brilliant record. The band starts by pushing listeners away, and as the record unfolds, gradually lets them come closer. Sometimes the music is totally opaque and cloudy. And sometimes singer and songwriter Alec Ounsworth's words seem like a streak of disconnected images, breadcrumbs on a path.

But by the last few songs, Ounsworth changes his tactics as a lyricist. On a song called "Yankee Go Home," he sketches a more precise/literal picture of an ugly American on holiday.

No doubt about it: The new record from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is more challenging than the band's debut. But there's more going on than random distortion and oscillating goop. Spend enough time with it, and you begin to hear gorgeous melodies rising from the din. And then you realize: This record won't spill all its secrets the first time through. But that doesn't mean there aren't secrets waiting in there.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Moon
Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.
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