On Some Loud Thunder, 2005’s internet sensation Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have taken great pains to make it clear that they’re not abandoning their indie roots. This album is self-released (like their self-titled debut), and what’s more, two full weeks before the official release date, is available online for purchase via download and streaming on their Myspace page in its entirety. Even the record’s title could be seen as a repudiation of any effects from such things as being named Rolling Stone’s “Hot New Band of 2005”. So, despite all the hype, it actually grabs your attention.
This feeling is present in the actual music as well, nowhere more so than with the opening track of the same name. “Some Loud Thunder” has the lo-fi effect of sounding like it was made on a tape recorder. Singer/guitarist Alec Ounsworth claims, “It’s the only way the song worked for me,” but listeners may complain about the sonic effect, especially if listened to on earphones, and/or by someone who’s previously heard it live. While hardly overwhelming, the effect certainly feels unnecessary, and keeps the laid-back, almost slacker track from becoming really catchy.
This “unmastered” nature runs throughout the entire album (though not to quite the same extreme), and it isn’t the only thing holding back the good Some Loud Thunder from being great. Their numerous attempts at being tragic often fail to be truly gripping. Ounsworth’s nasal voice was already distinct (sort of a twenty-first century version of the two Johns from They Might Be Giants, or Gordon Gano of The Violent Femmes), but it seems to have been made even more so on this release. Again and again on this record, decent tracks like “Emily Jean Stock” or “Arm & Hammer” verge on the unpleasant, while possibly great songs like “Five Easy Pieces” or “Love Song No. 7” are left only good.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t some real gems on Some Loud Thunder. CYHSY once again delivers some incredible, upbeat, toe-tapping, hips-swiveling indie-shaking with “Satan Said Dance”, reminiscent of The Talking Heads. Their stabs at tragedy bear juicy fruit with the haunting “Goodbye to the Mother & the Cover”, the most moving song on the album. And the catchy-slacker near miss that opened the record is made up for with the totally catchy, almost alt-country, ‘Yankee Go Home’.
The Brooklyn-based CYHSY have resolutely tried not to be affected by such accolades as being on the cover of Time Out: New York. But in doing so, Some Loud Thunder actually has been affected, with all their attempts to keep it real, indie-wise. One can hardly object to the album’s remarkable internet-accessibility, but the deliberate lack of production values, amping-up of Ounsworth’s particular vocals, and veer towards being more meaningful, are all generally more hindrance than help. Had those not been in place, perhaps this record would have lived up to all the hype that the band is so desperate to avoid.