For all that's been gained in the explosion of online musical commentary in the past few years, something has been lost: The concept of the off album. With so many artists vying for listeners' attention, there's little room for forgiveness when an act doesn't quite get it together. That trend will almost surely shorten a lot of musical careers, if it hasn't already. So maybe we, the collective listening public, should band together over innovative band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and cut its sophomore effort, Some Loud Thunder, a little slack.
No, Thunder isn't as good as CYHSY's self-titled 2005 debut, but not for a lack of effort. There's a Phil Spector-like aspiration to the layered sounds of "Emily Jean Stock," and a game attempt to outdo LCD Soundsystem and !!! with "Satan Said Dance," a vision of hell as a party that never ends. Clearly the band and producer Dave Fridmann have a vision for Some Loud Thunder, so it's a shame their ambition only rarely translates into music that approaches the album's compelling predecessor. (It's a further shame that some of the production touches intermittently make the title track and others sound like corrupted MP3 files.) Singer Alec Ounsworth is still channeling David Byrne through his plaintive, yearning vocals, but no moments pierce as deep as the collision of straining guitar line and fuzzed-out synthesizer on "The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth." CYHSY overreaches here, but there's something to be learned from overreaching. And there's little doubt that whatever direction the band takes on album number three will be worth hearing. If anyone's still listening.