After a five year hiatus Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is back with Hysterical, an album that sounds like the group’s previous two efforts honed to a dull edge. Guitars strum repetitively over a pulsating rhythm section and Alec Ounsworth stretches his voice elastically over it all, but the songs lack the manic tones that characterized their debut. The sound is tight and crisp, but forgettable.
The album starts off promisingly with “Same Mistake”, with its infectious rhythm and Ounsworth sounding better than he ever has, but by the song’s end it all feels redundant and boring, frankly. This song—and much of the album—would probably be a blast to hear live or would make for a great soundtrack to a montage, but in this format they fall flat and lifeless.
Hysterical fares better on tracks where Clap Your Hands Say Yeah mixes things up. On “Misspent Youth” the music slows down, the sound develops some space and Ounsworth’s vocals and lyrics are pushed to the forefront. When he sings, “I’m driving drunk in daddy’s car / honey, I won’t spoil the ending”, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah achieves a melancholic beauty that isn’t just derived from chaos. “Misspent Youth” is reflective, sad, and sticks in your head in the best way possible, but then things immediately jump back into bouncing noise with “Maniac”.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have made a solid album that they can hang their hat on, but it’s not going to set the world on fire and even their biggest fans will nod along to most of it ineffectually. Things sound the same, but they’re not.