Gig Review: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Manchester Academy 2, 7th February 2006

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have come a long way in just a few short months thanks to this internet thing. Their album was released in the UK just last week and yet this gig at the moderately-sized Academy 2 sold out yonks ago. When we saw them in Liverpool last November it was more like Clap Your Hands Say “meh” (shit, I just googled that and Information Leafblower got there well before me) ; Alec Ounsworth’s nasal whine got on my nerves at times and they just didn’t seem to have any kind of spark to set them apart from all the other pretenders to the Arcade Fire throne. JustHipper certainly enjoyed them back then but the album has grown on me ever since, however, and I was willing to forgive and forget.

Support came from Dr. Dog, to all intents and purposes a bar band from Philidelphia, who passed the time before the main attraction with their amiable, but ultimately dull, college rock. Some of their slower songs caught the attention, occasionally bringing to mind The Replacements, but more often than not they over-egged the pudding and the songs regularly outstayed their welcome. And they’ve got a really crap name. Good beards though.

Clap Your Hands arrived to much clapping of hands and went straight into “Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away”; it was immediately obvious that this was to be a much improved performance. “Is This Love?” followed soon after and by the time they reached “Yellow Country Teeth” the crowd were really buzzing. Drunken teenagers sang loudly into their friends’ faces (why do people do this when drunk?) and I remember being impressed that they knew all the words given that I haven’t a clue what Ounsworth is singing half the time. His voice is the perfect synthesis of David Byrne and Bob Dylan, which is to say that’s it’s something of an acquired taste. Here he was much more lucid than he was during his half-hearted performance in Liverpool, and this, coupled with a much beefier and confident sound from the band, showed that they are reaping the benefits of a hefty touring schedule.

The decidedly Dylanesque “Details Of The War” sounded particularly good while “Over And Over Again (Lost And Found)” and a marvellous “Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood” with its simple yet inspired bass hook, went some way to demonstate the strengths of their debut album. And there’s more to come: new songs like the skewed electro-pop of “Satan Said Dance” and the bouncy, brilliant “Me And You Watson” bode very well for the future.

So, they’ll never be able to live up to the hype, and they’re an uncharismatic bunch with barely a word to the audience in their hour or so on stage, but they’re improving all the time and I expect their second album, whenever it appears, to be a cracker.

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