It may have been 8 p.m., the sun may have been still been out, but time and light and light and time felt, well, menial last Friday as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman Alec Ounsworth serenaded his audience in the unconventional tonalities of his voice. A siege of indie/alternative, power-popped out bliss: Ounsworth’s croon slides and juts into warbles that are just as smooth as they are obtuse; uncomfortable, yet refined.
Allston’s Brighton Music Hall opened up its slightly dingy, yet nevertheless impressive, black door (in all its rock n’ roll prowess) to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and their cult-like followers for the group’s 10th anniversary of their self-titled album’s release. The record, which in 2005 happened to be self-released and without any label backing, Philadelphia-based CYHSY put the group on the map via the then-new-and-expanding generation of the blog.
It was 2005. My hair was long, sun-bleached blonde, and the awkward pounds of baby weight that haunted my formative middle school years were finally beginning to go away. No longer did the remnants of my “shag” haircut, a.k.a. mullet of seventh-grade plague my stride, and the after three painful years of braces, I was home free. It was 2005, and I was in eighth grade. Needless to say, middle school was rough. But the end of the stint at Laguna Beach’s Thurston Middle School finally brought about a reprieve.
From punk to classic rock, came my initial slide into indie alternative. I sat on an old couch, in an unmade room, with three or four boys. Our faces were glued to the computer. We sat editing yet another amateur skateboard video. The soundtrack to this short? Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth”.
That song, and well, that record, without sounding cliche, changed everything for me. Its lyricism and instrumentation harbored all of the discomfort and gawkiness of growing up; but, resolutely cherished the innocence I wanted so badly not to leave behind. So, to, as I looked around the Allston audience the other night, did it for everyone else. For, as it turns out, a majority of the crowd seemed overwhelmingly over the age of 40. Maybe it’s the low, constant, and undeniable forward movement of the band’s beats that beckons the call of the older crowd: a mutual understanding that things have and undeniably move forward. Or maybe it’s that same attachment to the past. It’s as if Ounsworth and co. manage to bottle up all the things of our elapsed, and as the music pushes on, it promises to get us back, right to where, we had started.
As CYHSY played through their first album from start to finish, its audience members sang every word while wobbling and bending in all directions. The band only stopping, so Ounsworth could give a heartfelt dedication to his mom: the woman, in some small, or maybe even huge part, being responsible for the infamous debut record’s distribution. Ounsworth confessed that if it weren’t for her, he might of just about given up and started something new. Somewhere out in the crowd the mom listened, and I’m sure never felt prouder of how far her son and his vision has come.
The original line up of CYHSY isn’t exactly intact, but its newest members showed an enthusiasm that appeared unmatched, as if not being there from the beginning was a distinct advantage. The bassist and keyboardist plucked and tapped their way through the chords, in their own worlds, only looking up to flash starry-eyed smiles to the crowd.
My heart heaved and my body tingled in a sort of effervescent sensation: nostalgia, in some hemoglobic manner, replaced the blood in my veins, and I sung, or er, rather screamed, the words to “Is This Love?” Me, just shouting out the repeated lines to the chorus. My eyes closed, and just for a second, I thought, or maybe even was back on that couch, in that room, with the future kicked wide open for me, and the possibilities were, wait no, are endless.
Is this love, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah? Yes, as a matter of fact, it is. And it feels like youth.