Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Yelping indie round-up: Modest Mouse, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

It’s ironic – not to say somewhat confusing and dispiriting – that two bands so beloved of the comment-friendly blog culture have produced highly-anticipated albums that are so resistant to the formation of strong opinions. For all their qualities – and failings – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s second album, ‘Some Loud Thunder’, and Modest Mouse’s new, Johnny Marr-assisted effort, ‘We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank’ (que?) are united in their failure, or refusal, to produce a strong reaction, in this reviewer at least.

Heightened expectations seem to have hung over both bands, and to have contributed to the impenetrable character of their albums. But they’ve responded to those expectations in opposite ways. CYHSY have turned inwards, and ‘Some Loud Thunder’ concentrates on refining and developing the band’s own sound. There aren’t any obvious singles or dancefloor fillers, but then that’s the point: remember ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’? Instead, this a practice-room album, the doors shut to the outside world, the groove allowed to lead proceedings. The result is often frustrating – long periods with little to show for the noodling – but when it works, as on standout tracks such as ‘Love Song no.7’, it’s all the more rewarding. Less tuneful and less polished than their debut, ‘Some Loud Thunder’ is a grower, suggesting at least that CYHSY is a band in a process of evolution, and one that is likely to continue producing interesting and vital music. (B)

Modest Mouse have taken the road more travelled, and seem to think they’ve raised their game to meet the public’s expectations. U2, the Smiths, Snow Patrol: all are within Isaac Brock’s sights. But here’s the problem: before this, and even on ‘Good News…’, Modest Mouse were impossible to pin down: an O.C. anthem here, a Tom Waits rhumba there. In ironing out their kinks, honing their sound, and consolidating the sound of ‘The Moon and Antarctica’ and ‘Good News’ into an unchallenging mid-paced set, Modest Mouse are aiming for a constituency that only exists in the ‘crossover indie’ aggregates suggested by annual round-ups and last.fm recommendations. Does this sort of thing really connect with anyone? Is there any content, lyrical or musical, to connect with? Of these two underwhelming albums, Modest Mouse’s seems the more focused and ambitious, but the smart money is on Clap Your Hands. (C)

More fun:

Stream most of ‘We Were Dead’ at the hype machine

And likewise for ‘Some Loud Thunder’

which is IN STORES NOW

Buy Modest Mouse at Amazon

1 comment:

Passion of the Weiss said...

Best review I've read of the Clap Your hands album yet. Everyone's so quick to pan it, but that album gets better and better with each listen. Of course, its not as good as the debut, but i think they'll be around for a while.

I kinda' like but don't love the modest mouse but need to hear it more. It's definitely too long though. Like every one of their records.