Clap Your Hands Say Yeah | Hysterical

Red General Catalog (2011)
By RYAN REED  |  September 20, 2011
3.5 3.5 Stars


Being one of the few people who actually enjoyed Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's sophomore slump, Some Loud Thunder, I entered Hysterical, their supposed return to form, with perhaps a different set of expectations than most. Thunder — produced with demented, ear-bleeding precision by Flaming Lips veteran sound-sculptor David Fridmann — was a grower, no question about it. But once you peeled back its outwardly ugly layers, it offered an artful glimpse into the melted, half-drunk poet psyche of nasal-voiced frontman Alec Ounsworth. Messy? Awkward? Unquestionably. But it rewarded patient listening. Hysterical — more focused, polished, and less self-consciously weird — doesn't make you work nearly as hard for your euphoria. Deploying the magic touch of indie producer-superhero John Congleton, these five musicians have never sounded more like a rock band, and these 12 spacious, dreamy excursions benefit from the added muscle. "Maniac" wrangles snake-charmer synths and a potpourri of electric guitar tones, and Tyler Sargent's swampy bass is just as memorable as Ounsworth's delicious melodies. They stretch out on the gorgeous, road-weary ballad "In a Motel," offering a winding chord progression that proves Ounsworth and company as capable of crafting durable songs as they are of making hipsters groove. There's no question that this is their finest album, as much as it may piss off die-hards who only want more disassociated dance workouts (like their debut's "Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth"). But those people are probably assholes anyway. Hysterical is built for the long haul, and it appears, after a patch of rocky terrain, that Clap Your Hands are too.
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