Clap Your Hands Say Yeah | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

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There are two chief gripes about Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The first is that Pitchfork likes them, which carries even less water as an indictment than it does as a recommendation. But I can at least see where the complainers are coming from on the second point, which is that Alec Ounsworth can't sing. His unpalatable yelp often sticks somewhere between Gordon Gano and Tom Verlaine--and in a live setting, where he doesn't have the luxury of multiple takes to hone his affectations, it can get pretty grating. But in the context of the group's self-released, self-titled CD (available at clapyourhandssayyeah.com), with its forthright bass progressions, playful guitar and keyboard squiggles, and indefatigable rave-ups, Ounsworth comes across like a hopeful dork trying to downplay his optimism so he won't sound too corny. This Brooklyn-Philadelphia combo similarly downplays its own grooves--so lacking in insistence are the rhythms that only after I watched an audience's diffident indie shuffle congeal into full-on dancing did it occur to me to try moving along myself. At that point my body understood what my ears had been straining to find: in this post-post-postpunk age of ours, where bands labor to encode modern travails in angular, unpleasant contortions, a group that looks for meaning in the monotonous, soothing beat of the Velvet Underground is a real relief. Reminds me of the old rock 'n' roll truism that simplicity is inexhaustible--which may be why these dorks sound so hopeful. The Brunettes open (and headline their own show Tuesday at Schubas--see separate Treatment item). Mon 4/3, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mattias Elgemark.

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