I have no idea what it was like in your house growing up, but in mine being ‘late to the table’ was a sure way to lose out on after dinner goodies. However, this whole ‘vinyl revival’ thing makes it so you can be years late to the table and still enjoy a great dessert.
Such is the case with the fabulous self-titled debut by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. It has been 10 years since their initial offering and in celebration the band is re-issuing their out of print eponymous record with an additional recording of songwriter Alec Ounsworth doing a solo acoustic live show.
Just in case you may have forgotten Clap Your Hands Say Yeah popped onto the scene in spectacular fashion garnering rave reviews on both sides of the ocean and beyond. Names like Modest Mouse, Neutral Milk Hotel, Ride, and the Talking Heads have been used to describe them (Ounsworth’s voice does resemble a higher pitched David Byrne) but really they are a really well balanced stew of many influences. You can hear various styles dating from the 80’s to the present, which just means it is pretty hard to them pin down from one song to the next. Listen to it with friends sharing a couple bottles of wine and you could have an interesting conversation about what you hear and how good it is.
Out on June 2nd, the wax re-issue will be pressed on gold translucent vinyl and both the CD and LP versions will include download cards of the original release and live material.
Something about the bass line in “Love Buzz” that at times seems both sinister and fun. Then the guitar kicks in and you can’t decide which instrument to ‘air-play’ to, and when you finally decide, you find yourself doing vocals and tearing your throat apart in a vain attempt to capture that fierce Cobain voice. I could listen to this over and over like a demented 13 year old and never see myself getting sick of it.
2. “Kid With Crooked Face” – Bob Mould
A long time ago, I saw Sugar play several times. I was always blown away by how Mould can convey image and emotion with a dry vocal competing against his fierce (and very loud) guitar work. He’s also the guy that convinced me to have a pair of ear plugs in my pocket at a concert… my ears were ringing for two days after I saw Sugar for the first time.
3. “The Simspsons Theme” – Green Day
Well I couldn’t very well talk about the Lego Simpsons house without sneaking in this wonderful bit of Green Day noise.
4. “The Way We Were” – Me First & the Gimme Gimmes
Most people think of Streisand when they hear this song. Instead I get killed by the heartache and laughter of the late great Gilda Radner. I think she would like this version too.
5. “In The Heat Of The Moment” – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Noel Gallagher is one of those artists I will purchase without even hearing a song. He just has that dependable rock’n’roll sound that gets me humming in whatever setting I’m in.
6. “Listen To Some Music” – BMX Bandits
Glasgow band has fun with a jangling low-fi house party sound. Would love to see them live, but the Atlantic Ocean provides a small barrier between me and that little dream.
7. “Spider-Man” – The Mr. T Experience
I must have listened to a 100 different versions before I picked this one. You would think I would get sick of it… but no – I just wondered where the hell the Ramones version went.
8. “Lampshades On Fire” – Modest Mouse
Like the song, but if I see a lampshade on fire, I’m reaching for a frickin’ extinguisher, not dancin’ around.
9. “Panic In Detroit” – David Bowie
This is a preview – I will soon be writing about a special vinyl acquisition and I couldn’t wait to play something from it. Here’s a picture – I just hope it sounds as good as it looks.
I’ve been a fan of Travis for years, but the weird thing is, I couldn’t tell you much about them other than the Brit-Pop connection and that I have always enjoyed them. It’s like they have been stuck on the mellow side of Radiohead’s The Bends, and continue to dwell and explore that place.
12. “Lego” – The Maccabees
The band with a religious name that doesn’t follow any religion – but can write a pretty decent tune involving Lego… well ok… as usual my wit has escaped me.
13. “Delinquency” – V Twin
Another Glasgow band said to be the “Next Big Thing” falls short. Still, like Teenage Fanclub before them, they write some great tunes. Only problem is finding their stuff.
14. “The Hardest Button To Button” – The White Stripes
Seeing as I wrote about Elephant only yesterday, I figured they should hit the mix today. Besides it gave me another opportunity to include that Simpsons/White Stripes video.
15. “Elevator Operator” – Courtney Barnett
Due to my fascination with vinyl I don’t often talk about new artists, but damn, this song was too good to pass by without putting it into the mix, ask me in a month if I feel the same way about the album.
16. “Tin Soldier” – Small Faces
I was always a bigger Faces fan than the Small Faces, but in recent years I’ve gone back to discover that when these guys were at the top of their game, they were every bit as good as the Kinks and Who… which is about the biggest compliment I can give.
17. “The Letter” – The Box Tops
It’s hard to believe that Alex Chilton has departed this place; even harder to believe he was only 16 when he recorded and had a #1 hit with this song. He certainly doesn’t sound like a kid.
18. “Free Again” – Alex Chilton
Because I was in the mood for Chilton, I could help but throw this on right after the Box Tops. It is an awesome song in its own right. The album can still be purchased from Omnivore. For a good laugh, you can see how much Chilton hated lip-synching.
19. “Sundown” – Gordon Lightfoot
A prize find at last year’s RSD, I’ve spent many hours since mellowing by the window reading books and listening to this record.
20. “Echo Beach” – Martha & the Muffins
One of my favourite songs from childhood, it convinced me I really didn’t want to grow up. Unfortunately, responsibilities have a way of making such proclamations sound rather silly. Still, I would rather be at “Echo Beach” on a mid August evening than in front of a computer in March. It was a long winter.
Let’s face it, Modest Mouse is never going to get any better and cooler than they were a few years ago when Johnny Marr joined up for an album and tour, and every album subsequently will be judged against the success of We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank. Sure early albums like The Moon & Antarctica were great records that built their reputation, but both the commercial and critical success of We Were Dead… makes it the career highlight.
Perhaps that’s why we see an 8 year wait between records, although, it really doesn’t seem like that long ago, but I digress…
Modest Mouse has always balanced themselves on a thread between ambitious and eccentric. At their best they have this quirky genius thing going on and the other side of the coin is this pretentious arty bullshit that isn’t nearly as smart as they seem to think it is.
So, which side of the line did the coin land on?
Thankfully, they landed face side up with Issac Brock finding that sweet spot between trippy stories and letting his top notch band find the grove to emotional resonance. Yes it is quirky and full of quick turns and humour, but it also has musical lift that keeps things moving.
Take their first single “Lampshades on Fire”, one could easily look at it as more of the same from Modest Mouse, a simple next step from their previous offerings. However, this first look at the new record is more like a statement that grounds the band. It pulls a funky grove and lyrical twist without things drifting off into a world of self-absorption. The rest of the record takes shape around that idea. Brock & co. Never allow things to get out of hand which I found to be a bit of a deterrent on earlier records.