I’d imagine that most people who saw that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were playing the Button Factory on a Monday, thought, “should’ve been Whelans on a Thursday”.
I hope that Alec Ounsworth took a leak in the toilets at The Button Factory before playing there on Monday night. For the uninitiated, these toilets are 2 sets of metal stairs underground and their interior is tattooed with graffiti like a hipster turned inside-out. They’re also always empty. I think he would appreciate the undergroundness, the solitude, and the pop culture rhizomes of ink.
Ounsworth is a bedroom musician who found himself being pushed forward onto the stage as one of the gladiators of Pitchfork.com. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were one of the first to become successful on the back of internet scribblings and not radio airtime. Sharing the arena with Arcade Fire and Interpol in the mid noughties, most members of Clap Your Hands said no and went off to “grow some vegetables”.
Opening with Blameless the drumming sounds like they’re about to launch into a cover of Idioteque, which would be priceless given that the Button Factory is too often a musical decompression chamber of danceable digital beats and chemical repression. After that, straight into In This Home on Ice with it’s four-four drums and droning, Pavement-style guitars. The audience react to the more familiar track from the first album as if they’re on a bus that’s just been driven off a cliff. Then onto the Talking Heads sound of Satan Says Dance and CYHSY have showcased their two biggest influences.
There have been gigs where the Button Factory sound system was like something from a school nativity play, but tonight it suits Clap Your Hands’ lo fi approach perfectly. The guitars sound like they’ve only got a 10 watt practice amp, and that’s perfect. There are times when Ounsworth sounds like Michael Stipe on his deathbed, which is also a bed of nails (Gimme Some Salt, Is This Love?). Which is perfect. Two friends went to see James Blunt and said it was like listening to a CD so I’ll take a few wrinkles of diction.
Obviously, The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth is a crowd pleaser. The most danceable song about enamel since Dentist from the Little Shop of Horrors. Every band has a song that’s hard to follow and Into Your Alien Arms is basically This Home on Ice over again but with less gain on the guitars, and you can’t help get the feeling that you are being gently lowered from the peak of the performance.
Some people have complained that the setlist was overweight towards Only Run but it was the final date of a tour to promote the new material. I wanted them finish by echoing out like the ghost of their once possible greatness with Telling The Truth, and Going Away. Instead they kicked hole with Heavy Metal, which like pretty much every song with the title “Heavy Metal”, doesn’t sound anything like heavy metal. But it doesn’t sound like Talking Heads crossed with Pavement/Pixies either, hopefully CYHSY were showcasing the development of their own sound and not leaning on the noughties albums is a good thing.