I've spent about a week with the new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah album, and I can't say that the trepidation has worn off. Not trepidation vis-a-vis the music (it's as grand and brilliant and engrossing as you'd expect), but trepidation for the band.
To make a short story shorter, "Some Loud Thunder" isn't exactly listener-friendly -- in a way, actually, it's almost listener-repellent. The whole disc is full of sharp edges, rough patches, discordant stretches of noize; occasionally, listening to the thing on my headphones, I wondered if Ounsworth and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was actually making a conscious effort to shove the listener off their shoulders.
And would you blame them? The self-titled, self-released disc of yesteryear -- one of the best received albums of '05/'06 --- was graceful and melodic and quite beautiful, and it offered itself up to audiences eagerly. It didn't take long for CYHSY to become indie fanboy/fangirl favorites. As far as I'm concerned, from there, Ounsworth had three choices: follow up the self-titled disc with a similar pop-inflected gem (something Ounsworth is perfectly capable of), explore a totally different genre, or write a big, raging punk rawk album and tell everyone, politely, to [expletive] off.
"Some Loud Thunder" is certainly not a pop album, and is mostly a mixture of a sneering push-off and a genre exploration. Gone is some of the melody, some of the expansive, self-mythologizing stories of proms and growing up; in is a song about Satan and then a song about Arm & Hammer.
So the trepidation? Yeah.
Will fans of the band's first album take the time to understand? Will they put up with the electrobabble interludes and Ounsworth's pronounced squeal (even louder --- more pitched --- here than on the debut)? In other words, does anyone have the time to spend lots more time understanding why an indie rock band --- even a very good indie rock band --- is doing what its doing? Lily Allen certainly doesn't require that from her listeners, nor, really, do the Shins. Alec Ounsworth does, and in doing so, he's put a tremendous amount of faith in his listeners. My fingers are crossed for you.
About Sound Effects
ContributorsSarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.
James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.
Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.
Julian Benbow is a staff writer at the Boston Globe, covering sports and music.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.