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Saturday, October 01, 2005 

On first listen

What the hell, I was going to listen to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! at some point, right?

01. Clap Your Hands!
I really didn't need to hear David Byrne trying to be Tom Waits. Two great tastes that do not taste great together. Thank God it's short.

02. Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away
That's a really cool ratchety guitar(?) part right at the beginning. I can see where all the Byrne comparisons come from (hell, I just made one, right?) but he's much more... adenoidal. And not in a good way, really. Aside from that, the Talking Heads comparisons seems very lazy, they're not using vocals the same way (this has a lot more keen, which I kind of like), the rhythm is very simple, and there's none of that chunka-chunka-chunka I associate with early non-funky TH. It sounds a bit like the Arcade Fire if they were less obsessed with bigness (of choruses and bands), and perversely enough I think I like this better.

03. Over And Over Again (Lost And Found)
Would it kill him to actually pronounce words? When he's slurring through the "Come-a come-a come-a come-a come-a come-a come on" part it's compelling, but his complete lack of enunciation the rest of the time is annoying. It sounds like "mumble mumble mumble mumble David Bowie mumble mumble". One thing he shares with Byrne, I think, is his ability to project great weariness with his voice, but so far that seems like all he's doing with it.

04. Sunshine And Clouds And Everything Proud
Tinkly Apples In Stereo incidental instrumental nonsense. I'd rather listen to Her Wallpaper Reverie, thanks. At least it's creepy.

05. Details Of The War
I'm going to pretend he just sang "hanging with your fashionable horse", because that's funnier. The backing is unsurprising but satisfying - more kick drum would be even better. Hmm. It's building to something, and then it gets to... U2? Only I like this guy's voice better than Bono. And then - harmonica! Yes! It works surpisingly well. All of a sudden he sounds like a higher-pitched Dylan. They seem to be going heavy on songs that build up to a climatic vocal moment and then ramble off instrumentally for a bit, so far - not my favourite structure.

06. The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth
Hey. Drums. Post-disco drums. A good sign. Are they Bloc Party now? Nah - drums not as busy, although the guitars at first are pretty close. His voice makes sense now (maybe that was just my ears adjusting). If this has a good chorus it's going to be a pretty great song. There - that bit would work, will they repeat it? They will! The best song by a significant margin so far. I'm a sucker for those guitars - everyone uses them, but they're great. Pretty nice bass work. Was that a handclap? Something about the drum production is very 80s. Is it a coincidence that the first keeper here is also the first song with a chorus?

07. Is This Love?
Nice segueway. This keeps the sound from the last song - the first five tracks sound muted in comparison. Lyrics are shit, sadly. That keyboard arpeggio reminds me of "The Crystal Lake". Weird turn midway through - parts of this aren't bad, but it's not gelling for me.

08. Heavy Metal
It seems as if their sound is getting fuller and more realised with every song, now. The chorus should sound wild with abandon with that heedless piano and all those cymbals, but it doesn't quite. Again, a prolonged-feeling instrumental coda.

09. Blue Turning Grey
Brief acoustic guitar interlude. Pleasant, but kind of pointless.

10. In This Home On Ice
...except as an intro to the synthesizers at the beginning of those song. I love that thick kind of sound. His voice works well with this kind of sound. Our second keeper. Total indie driving song territory. I can tell ten or twenty listens down the road this song will sound classic. I actually like those synths enough I don't mind them going on for a minute or so after he's done singing.

11. Gimme Some Salt
He sounds like he's trying to taunt someone, but I can't make out what he's saying. Is the band just going to chug in place for the duration? No - they're gearing up for something! Aaaaaaand... track's over.

12. Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood
Early-Byrne acoustic guitar strum and synths that sound a little like "In This Home On Ice". He's not as adenoidal any more. Easily the most Talking Heads-esque track here, although the parts where he just repeats the same two words ad nauseum are thankfully their own invention (as well as annoying). The verse bits aren't bad, though. Painfully abrupt ending.

The verdict? I can't believe some label was that excited about this, but there are a couple of good tracks. They really are this year's Arcade Fire.

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Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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