God chillin'

Sophomores, all: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Arcade Fire
|
()

kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER O brother, where art thou, blog-worthy, buzz-besieged bands? Whither the classes of 2004 and '05? As memory fades and fads pass, the Klaxons and Beirut had best look to the respective fates of Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, both of which have spawned second albums at a time when Britney Spears's postpartum-postbreakup cue-ball cutes (uh, was she actually a musician, mommy?) score almost twice as many hits as Beyoncé or any ole artist who has actually issued fresh tracks in the last four years. How has blogosphere-borne hypey held up? Can the viral gospel survive, with or without fast-buck comps with the word "Hitz" in their titles? (Was I dozing through Now That's What I Call Indie! Vol. 23?) Was there any substance to the sound of the mid-'00s when it comes to Arcade Fire and CYHSY — two indie taste sensations that musically mimed Talking Heads and, in their number, resembled villages more than singular villains? Can they bring sexy back sonically, even though they never bumped billiard balls with the naked-noggined queen of pop?

From the sound of the last CYHSY show I caught at the Warfield, the Philly–New York sprawl seemed well on its way to sell-out-by staleness. Out were the frothy, Afropop-derived David Byrne–ing campfire rhythms. Enter monotonous, monochromatic indie rock.

Yet although CYHSY's new (and still bravely self-released) 'un, Some Loud Thunder, peters to a dull roar by the time "Five Easy Pieces" rolls around, the full-length still impresses with its sense of aural experimentation. Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann throws fuzz, shmutz, and the noise equivalent of cat fur and tumbleweed over the proceedings, futzing the opening, title track into a cunning combo of foregrounded murk and tambourine-shimmy clarity. CYHSY cut through the fog of pop with the dissonance-laced sweetness of a cockeyed, choral "Emily Jean Stock" and the Dylanishly titilutf8g manifesto tease of "Mama, Won't You Keep Them Castles in the Air and Burning?" Some Loud Thunder is a freakin' busy record — with the emphasis happily on the freak — and it's almost as if CYHSY were trying to reach beyond the easy, cumbersome cool of their name (always suspected to be a major part of their appeal) and toward, hoo-boy, depth. Too bad the lyrics aren't often up to the musical intrigue on such songs as "Satan Said Dance" and "Goodbye to Mother and the Cove," making CYHSY sound like the E.E. Cummingses of indie, for whatever that's worth. "Gravity's one thing and / Gravity's something but / How about coming down ...," Alec Ounsworth whinnies. "Weird but you're back talking." Wonderfully weird, yes, though is it unfair to ask if you have anything to say?

Back also, in priestly black, are Arcade Fire, who have plenty to tell in the three years since Funeral was unveiled. Amid the majestic choral sheen, synth pop flock, and Tijuana brass of their new album, Neon Bible (Merge), Win Butler and party have unearthed and dusted off the lost threads of connection between the teary tough-guy sentimentality of Gene Pitney and Roy Orbison, the jittery junked-up teardrops of "Little Johnny Jewel" and Suicide, and the quavering, coaguutf8g pop syrup of the Cure and OMD.

Also from this author

  • Women with movie cameras

    Cheers to CAAMFest's crop of female Asian American film directors

  • Spiking the box office

    THE YEAR IN FILM: Looking back at a triumphant year for African American films

  • Not from around here

    French synth-pop giants Phoenix and Daft Punk tap into the alien within

  • Also in this section

  • Peace-out

    After seven rockin' years, Sonic Reducer bids adieu with a look back at some choice musical moments

  • Feel the 'Love

    Rosily buzzing U.K. outfit the Big Pink gets it, Carly Simon and all

  • Sly 'n' sincere

    Don't confuse this Brit with Britney. Plus: Midlake and Barn Owl and Daniel Higgs