There’s nothing special about the new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah album. After a five-year hiatus, one would expect the indie rockers to return with a bang. Instead, they have retreated to unrecognizable mediocrity on Hysterical. CYHSY’s self-released, self-titled debut album was all the rage in 2005. The lovably quirky record made its way around the blogosphere and garnered much critical acclaim, even before they had signed to a label. But perhaps the hype surrounding them was premature. Their sophomore LP was poorly received, and Hysterical is an even bigger disappointment.
That is not to say that the album is bad. It is just fine — nothing more and nothing less. CYHSY’s debut championed an intriguing new brand of indie rock, a cacophonous blend of whimsy, romance and spontaneity. They should have expanded on this sound, and yet now fans are left wondering if it was merely an experimental fluke. Some Loud Thunder only embraced the cacophonous aspect of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (so much that it alienated its listeners). Now they have flopped to the opposite end of the melodic spectrum, abandoning their trademark edge for squeaky clean production.
The record is more introspective than their previous efforts, which could be why they chose this new sound. Their attempt at sophistication feels a bit half-baked, though. The lyrics are personal but distant; the compositions are pretty but boring. CYHSY did not dig deep enough into the heart of their record. The emotional intent is there — there’s just not enough intensity or sincerity to really move listeners. The band is still as technically gifted as ever, and Hysterical will certainly make for some calming study music. But if you try actively listening to it, you probably won’t make it past the first three songs.