❉ Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s fifth album is a short but sweet effort.
Keeping a hot band together is hard work in itself. Maintaining that spark of chemistry and early promise is even harder. But how do you fare when it’s twelve years down the line from your feted debut, and one by one, your collaborators have all left, leaving you as a one man band? This is the scenario that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Alec Ounsworth finds himself with in 2017 with fifth album The Tourist. A long-term home studio dabbler with a side band and an extracurricular solo album under his belt in addition to his much-loved main project, you’d think that Ounsworth might consider simply going solo. He’s having none of it. Ounsworth may prefer topping his studio tan to working with a full band, and playing intimate house concerts to the traditional life on the road, but The Tourist finds him steadfastly hanging on to the ‘band’ identity and itchy home studio vibe of CYHSY’s later efforts.
It’s a mixed blessing. The Tourist is a more polished and focused effort than 2014’s Only Run, but, being essentially a one man show, stays very much on an even keel dynamically, and lacks the kinetic interplay brought to the table by the original band. That said, there’s much to like here.
Ounsworth’s a thoughtful songwriter, and The Tourist is a short but sweet effort. Its ten songs clock in at an economical 37 minutes, and none of them outstay their welcome. The album’s a sort of emotional debrief for Ounsworth, it’s densely packed lyrically, and it’s clear from tersely delivered lines like “It’s a candle that you bring to the table, but it’s not enough for me…“ that there’s some serious venting going on. Sonically the album’s neatly folded into neat little packages. The crunchy digital distortion of Only Run has been dialled down and the overall smooth jangle of the songs serves as a floaty cushion to Ounsworth’s keening vocal, which falls somewhere between a poppier Thom Yorke and a more strung-out sounding Lindsey Buckingham. It’s not all pretty soundscapes though, there’s the occasional thorny surprise, like a burbling synth or the distressed, melting guitar break on A Chance To Cure. Ounsworth’s melodies tend to revolve around one note, occasionally threatening to spiral out of control as he gets more into it. What he lacks in melodic variety, he certainly makes up for in conviction.
Just as you’re getting into it, The Tourist comes to a close with the plangent strum and wracked Big Star Sister Lovers scenes of Visiting Hours. With that, Alec Ounsworth packs up his gear and takes off. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah may not have the band sound that made them so vital in 2005, but the songs are still there. Maybe if you happen to visit the right house, you’ll get to hear the intimate 2017 model first hand.
❉ Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! – ‘The Tourist’ is released 24th February 2017