Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

It’s good to see cult US indie band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah back in Britain, as part of a European tour, much of which is sold-out. But judging from the half-full venue, the word hasn’t spread to Birmingham, which means a lot of folk are missing out on a treat. However, the small audience seems to be made up of hard-core appreciative fans who give the band a rapturous welcome.

It’s also good to find another gig where there is also a great support band. Meursault is a commune in the Côte-d’Or department in Burgundy, in eastern France, and it also gives its name to a wine from that region. It’s also a band from Scotland. Meursault are fairly broad in style and influence, at times folky, at times experimental electronica and feedback and at times Neil Young-style guitar wig-outs. They even have two drummers. At times the vocal style reminds me of fellow Scots The Proclaimers, Big Country and Arab Strap! Their songs are certainly a bit miserable, like Arab Strap. They are melodic, but they also get very heavy, and they exploit the soft / loud technique of bands like Nirvana. One minute the sound is soft and slow-paced then – epic! Anyway they were well worth catching, but unfortunately there were few punters in the hall for their early set, on this cold, foggy Birmingham night.

Meursault

Meursault were a good choice to support Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. They both play quirky, intelligent and innovative music and both bands are made-up of rather studious looking guys, who don’t worry too much about fashion. CYHSY have been around since 2004 and have three albums under their belt, with the latest, ‘Hysterical’, released last year. They have a following that includes David Bowie and David Byrne of Talking Heads and a Talking Heads influence is certainly evident in the band’s angular music.

Tonight we get some of all three albums (though not much of the difficult second album), plus some new stuff. The first, and most quirky, LP is definitely the most popular and ground-breaking and there is a generous helping from this, including the ever popular (and improbably titled) The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth. The opening keyboard intro immediately has the enthusiastic audience cheering and some serious bopping ensues. The band’s style has progressed and they now have quite a range of material. However, the style has become noticeably more mainstream since that much-loved odd-ball first album. Even so, the mix of older and new material works pretty seamlessly tonight.

Meursault

Leader singer and guitarist, Alec Ounsworth, is about the most rock-and-roll looking bloke in the band and is the natural focus of attention, with the rest of the band fairly anonymous and blending into the background. However, they are a pretty solid band, with a dense mixture of guitars and keyboards. Ounsworth has an unusual and interesting voice, but unfortunately his vocals get a bit lost in the noise. The acoustics in the upstairs hall of the O2 are not good at the best of times, but tonight it is a bit too loud to appreciate the subtleties of CYHSY’s music, including the lyrics and the interplay of instruments.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah / Meursault

The show seems to take a while to really get going, but by the end the audience appreciation is pretty obvious. The band’s hour and a half set comes to an end with a three song encore, which is most notable for the rather wonderful Adam’s Plane (with its great acoustic intro) from the new album. If you haven’t heard them before, start out by listening to their chugging and jangling 2005 eponymous debut album. You will either love it or hate it, like Marmite!

Set List: Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away; Same Mistake; Satan Said Dance; Misspent Youth; Advice; Hysterical; In this Home On Ice; In a Motel; New Age; Details of the War; The Witness’ Dull Surprise; Let it Roll; Maniac; Is this Love?; The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth; Tidal Wave.
Encore: Some Loud Thunder; Adam’s Plane; Heavy Metal.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Photographs and Review by John Bentley

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