Beer and Pavement

On Reissues: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Posted in Life, Records by SM on July 8, 2011

The reissue is a right of passage of sorts for rock bands these days. Take an album that’s classic, hard to find, by a band with a legacy to uphold, or some combination of the three and you have a perfect candidate for reissue. Some come with extras while others are just a reprint of the original. Sometimes, it’s just the chance to own the vinyl version of a long-forgotten gem.

Which albums are being released? Pavement has had the deluxe treatment for all their albums so far. Bands like The Breeders, Joy Division, Neutral Milk Hotel, and many others have re-released albums on vinyl for a bit of nostalgia without the scratches. Archers of Loaf are touring this year and next in support of the reissue of their classic records, often complete with extras. Many bands I’ve followed over the years are now flooding me with reissues I must have.

Such is Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s self-titled, self-released debut. However, unlike the bands I’ve mentioned above, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah recorded their first released their record only six years ago. Is that really long enough to cement their place in history or stir up nostalgia for the days before Facebook and Google+?

Don’t get me wrong. The album is good, great even. I placed it near the middle of my best of the decade list. So, I bought into the hype – albeit a little late – all the blogs were putting out there about this band with the really long name. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is an album that deserves recognition on the level of a reissue or even a volume of its own in the 33 1/3 series.

However, after six years, is there really a need for a reissue of this particular record? Availability aside[1], CYHSY has not stood the test of time. Six years is nothing. I mean, I’ll have been married six years tomorrow and no one’s giving me a reissue. Hell, CYHSY the band hasn’t really stood the test of time. They released a record that sounded like how John Hughes dreamed, a forgettable sophomore effort[2], and then they disappeared. There was the shitty solo effort, random one-off gigs, and endless promises of a return, the last of which looks promising.

This reissue fills a couple of purposes. For one, the band probably didn’t press that many on the first go-around. The album was self-released. They didn’t have the capital, nor the distribution to sell that many records. So, why print too many that will just infest your guest room for years to come. Second, the band has decided to have another go at this rock ‘n roll thing and are touring in support of a new record. Is there a better way to resurrect a rock career than to drum up nostalgia for past brilliance? I think not.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah sounded[3] like no one else in 2005. Shit. No one sounds like them now. It was bohemian, Dylan-esque and Talking Heads-like in the way every band should be. There was a ton of bass without being cliched, jammy, or funky. Frontman Alec Ounsworth had/has one of the most unique vocal deliveries in rock. He mumbles and sours at the same time. It’s as if he doesn’t give himself time to fully enunciate as he has to get the words in his head out. And the band behind him was solid through and through.

And what landed on my front porch this week was vinyl copy of a record that meant a lot to me in the first year I moved to Columbia, the first year of my marriage. So, there’s a lot of sentimental value there. I never owned a copy of the record before, just a beat-up CD-copy my sister burned for me. Now, I’m the proud owner of a thick piece of vinyl slid into a high-quality jacket with a design as unique as the album it carries.

So, as I raise a glass to six glorious years with my favorite person who’s not my daughter, I will also celebrate what is a fun, electric, and completely captivating record. I only hope that this reissue is also a return to the band’s form and they’ll last as long as I hope my marriage will last.

1Of course, iTunes and Napster (or whatever was the Napster of 2005) were around in those days. If you really wanted a copy of this record, you could get it, but I digress.
2I suspect there were good songs under David Fridmann’s messy production, but I’m just not sure. I’m also not sure I’ll ever forgive the band nor Fridmann for that record.
3I use past tense here because they are a band of the past until they prove that this new record and road effort is worthy of what the band did six years ago. They were a great band. We’ll see if they still are.

One Response

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  1. Justin said, on July 9, 2011 at 7:53 am

    This is a little ridiculous. The album was/is pretty great but a reissue? “Look everyone, we’re reissue-ing that album everybody liked – remember when we had promise?” The John Hughes descriptor is great though. Every band with a terrible sophomore effort should just immediately reissue there first album. Movies should do it too if there is a bad sequel. Think how many times Rocky would have been in the theater.

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