Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at the Avalon Ballroom on September 26

A Review of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at the Avalon Ballroom on September 26

, Staff Writer

It’s pretty hard to record a perfect album. It’s harder to reproduce that perfect album live on-stage in front of an expectant crowd. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah did a great job of the former with their self-titled debut. They did an alright job of the latter in their hometown return at the Avalon Ballroom.

The set began with “In This Home On Ice,” with Alec Ounsworth’s unique vocal stylings inspiring a mumble-along from the crowd, which would continue for most of the night. The stage was unadorned and dimly lit, and band members stayed at their stations, with the exception of Lee Sargent and Robbie Guertin, who frequently traded guitar and keyboard duties.

One of the strengths of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s debut album is its near flawless engineering. The wall of sound is comprised of clearly discernible parts, and Ounsworth’s vocals soar over the top of the mix. In a live setting the bass isn’t as clean and bouncy, the guitars are not separated into different channels, and too often the vocals fail to break out. The best examples of this were “Details of the War,” which lost its epic feeling, and “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth,” which sounds much better in stereo with the volume up all the way.

Other songs benefited greatly from their live treatment. The funk of “Gimme Some Salt” let the band break away from simply reproducing the album and gave them a groove to develop. “Clap Your Hands!” morphed from a strange album intro into a sort of in-joke sing-along, replete with requested hand claps. “Upon this Tidal Wave of Young Blood” and especially “Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away” were the highlights of the show, whipping members of the crowd into a frenzy normally reserved for the Saturday night Avalon dance party.

The band also played four new songs at the show. Tentatively titled “Graceful Retreat,” “Cigarettes,” and “You and Me Watson” all saw Ounsworth doing his best David Byrne impression and were very similar to the joyful, driving songs on the debut. “Satan Said Dance” was the standout new tune. Band members layered distortion and blip sounds over a steady bass and drum drone, while Ounsworth repeated the chorus from whence the song gets its title. It was a step into Idioteque territory for the band, and it was delightfully creepy.

The album Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is better than most albums. The Clap Your Hands Say Yeah live show is better than many live shows. At this point in their career, I would probably choose Clap Your Hands Say Yeah playing on my car stereo as loudly as possible over Clap Your Hands Say Yeah playing at the Avalon. But it is exciting to see a promising young band with a combination of realized skill and raw potential. As months and months of internet buzz have already said, this is a band to keep an eye on.

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