Once upon a time, Clay Your Hands Say Yeah were essential in the burgeoning twenty-first century indie-rock scene. Based in Brooklyn but fronted by Philadelphia’s Alec Ounsworth, they virtually introduced/revived the self-release concept for established alternative bands, getting around labels and direct to the fans. But after touring 2007’s Some Loud Thunder (QRO review), the group seemed to dissipate as Ounsworth pursued a solo career (QRO solo album review). Yet they returned in 2011, though return record Hysterical (QRO review) actually lacked the fun of their early days. And now everyone but Ounsworth has left band, so how does Only Run fare? Pretty good, actually, if not the revelatory CHYSY that once was.
Like Hysterical, Only Run is a more serious record, but this time around Ounsworth & co. build a more interesting album. The indie-expanse of opener “As Always” has both loss and gain, while the following “Blameless” is low-key and effective like Dean Wareham (QRO spotlight on). “Coming Down” features Matt Berninger, singer of still-essential Brooklyn boys The National (QRO spotlight on), and feels like a National song even before he chimes in – but there’s nothing wrong that at all. Ounsworth’s sometimes nasal voice still comes to the fore too much (like with the slow effects of “Your Advice”), but not as much as one feared. Meanwhile, CHYSY can shift from brightening (“Little Moments”) to darkening (the subsequent title track), or even do both (“Impossible Request”).
By now, people are already getting nostalgic for the first decade of this century/millennium (the one we never named) – not so much President Bush or the War in Iraq, but the exploding hope that drove the indie-rock revival (and for the economy – definitely miss the old economy…). Clap Your Hands Say Yeah can’t revive their early days, but are definitely keeping up & on.