Recap: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at Union Transfer
To say that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s third full-length album, Hysterical, had high expectations to live up to would be an understatement. A more accurate assessment would be: Given the ridiculous amount of hype that surrounded the band’s 2005 self-titled debut, the disappointment that marked its 2007 sophomore album (Some Loud Thunder), and the four-year hiatus that followed, Hysterical found itself at a distinct disadvantage before it was even released. The quirky indie-pop quintet’s new album finally hit the shelves earlier this week; to its credit, Hysterical is an enjoyable (if unadventurous) collection of indie-pop songs that will undoubtedly please fans of the band—once they’ve had enough time to let the album’s surprisingly slick hooks burrow into their brains. Last night’s CYHSY show at newly opened Union Transfer, however, offered plenty of proof that Hysterical has yet to gain a grip on the fans.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s set kicked off with “Same Mistake,” the first single off Hysterical. Though the song isn’t exactly the exuberant romp you’d find on the debut album, it’s still an upbeat opener (for both the album and the live show). Yet it was met with a tepid response from what—prior to the first guitar line—was an eager crowd; other new tracks played early in the set (such as the title track and “Ketamine And Ecstasy”) were met with the same blank response. Of course, as soon as the band began to play songs from its first two albums, the vibe of the packed room quickly shifted: polite swaying and head bobbing turned into full-fledged fist pumping and crowd surfing.
The performance of “In This Home On Ice”, during which the first faint sounds of clapping could be heard, was the turning point of the evening. Gradually, with each older song, the crowd became more and more engaged. “Satan Said Dance” turned into a lyrical call and response between the crowd and the band; “Is This Love” wasn’t too far behind with bouncy solos and shouting vocals. On stage, the members of the band (who had been static to the point of lethargic for the first part of the set) embraced the crowd’s enthusiasm and began showing signs of life. Drenched in technicolor lights, they whaled on guitars and drums. “Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood,” the final track off the debut album, appropriately ended the set, only for the band to return and play a two-song encore (“Adam’s Plane” and “Heavy Metal”) for the excited crowd.
Hysterical lacks the quirk and eccentricities of its predecessors, but it’s certainly a sustainable pop record. Sure, none of the songs on the album resemble the bizarre, circus-themed “Clap Your Hands!”, but they all have clear structures and memorable melodies. If the crowd was unresponsive to the new material (which it was), you can easily attribute it to how little time they’ve had to take it in (which, in this case, was all of 24 hours, excluding the streaming audio via NPR’s First Listen). And it’s very likely that, should the band continue releasing records and performing with regularity, several tracks off Hysterical will become fan favorites, and live-show staples. —Caitlyn Grabenstein