When Clap Your Hands Say Yeah launched its debut album in 2005, critics offered acclaim for lyricist Alec Ounsworth’s DIY ethos and the band’s enthusiastic style. After two mediocre follow-up albums, the world turned against Ounsworth’s plaintive high tenor. Yet he persevered through two more releases of growing talent, even as his band shrunk to him and a stable of temporary musicians. Suddenly, the sixth studio album New Fragility (CYSH) seems bespoke for a post-Trump, post-pandemic era, though one couldn’t call the theme optimistic.
Ounsworth opts for a cautious world-weary stance following fatherhood, a divorce and the painful observation that many around him were showing more fragility than resilience. The easiest path might have been an all-acoustic album of self-pity. Instead he goes for loud organs and New Order-style guitars in “Thousand Oaks,” honoring victims of the 2018 massacre. Strings are added to “Innocent Weight” and “CYHSY 2005” in a manner that seems profound without evoking irony. Maybe Ounsworth was never a failure after all — maybe the rest of the world had to catch up to his introspective sighs.
Also New & Noteworthy
The Muckers, Endeavor (Greenway Records) – There was plenty of pre-lockdown buzz about Iranian immigrant Emir Mohseni and his quartet, The Muckers, being one of New York City’s most intriguing new bands. The first riff in the opening track “I Can’t Go Without You” is of an early Santana rhythm, but cuts like “Roll the Dice” and “Suspended” have the crunchy guitar sound of 1966 garage bands. This isn’t pure nostalgia, though. Post-COVID, this album will likely be the first instance of NYC dancing in the streets.
Richard Hell & The Voidoids, Destiny Street Complete (Omnivore) – Television’s Richard Hell gained notoriety with his 1979 solo The Blank Generation, but a 1982 follow-up never got much notice, despite its cover of Dylan’s “Going Going Gone” and a cover of “I Can Only Give You Everything,” a hit for both Them and MC5. This two-disc compilation has four versions of Destiny Street, some with new backup musicians, others featuring punk guitarist Robert Quine. Hell vanished after this album, but we’re left with this comprehensive document.