Alec Ounsworth, the stalwart and sole surviving member of Brooklyn based Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! is back on the road with a 10th anniversary tour of the album Some Loud Thunder, presented here in its entirety for the first time. Born on the internet and once heralded by two eminent Davids (Bowie and Byrne) the band are active once again after a career spanning 14 years, innumerable line up changes and a brief hiatus.
Support is in the shape of The Dears’ suave, rangy front man Murray Lightburn, who presents a clutch of new songs from his forthcoming album. Lightburn’s honey drop voice and haunting acoustic guitar resonate warmly and fill the high, pitted arches of The Caves beautifully. He even manages to squeeze in a lovely, stripped down version of his own band’s Ticket to Immortality in the process.
Ounsworth, in trademark cap and glasses, clambers over the monitors and stomps to start the beats and grooves of album opener Some Loud Thunder from his pedal board. The see-sawing of a shimmering Mama Castles has the effect of hypnotising the audience, who are constantly prodded by the band leader swerving and twisting in front of them. Schizophrenic Irish voices launch Satan Said Dance and the tub thumping Yankee Go Home arouses one front row fanboy to an air drumming frenzy.
Much has been made of Ounsworth’s enigmatic vocal delivery, with some comparing it with anyone from Tom Petty to Chrissie Hynde. Whatever the consensus, tonight his voice flits and wavers all around the music and it’s cultivated to be precise without the need to overwhelm. Throughout, he constantly adjusts and optimises, narrowing the gap between stage and the floor, baggy suit flailing around with each clinch and contortion.
The band retreats to allow him a beautiful, Dylanesque solo version of Five Easy Pieces, its windblown vocal quivering high above a harmonica and luscious, acoustic refrain before returning with a grab bag of CYHSY classics including The Skin of My Yellow Teeth and a rapturous Upon This Tidal Wave of Tortured Love. Even the pleading requests of the front row refuse to knock Ounsworth’s studious rendition of Strangled Caravan before a last, soaring clarion call with the exultant Same Mistake, whipping up a delirious response from the crowd.
CYHSY will always be known for their stellar debut but this tour could easily reignite a popular vote for Some Loud Thunder to be elevated even higher.