Sometimes an album can seem unspectacular and underwhelming on the first few listens, but over time it reveals a subtle wit and beauty not initially recognized. This is especially common with sophomore albums following a well-received and popular debut, because of the expectations and hype that inevitably follow such success.
Despite this familiar formula, Some Loud Thunder, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s follow up to their surprise hit self-titled debut, is not such an album. This is not to say that the album is a fetid decomposed carcass infecting all who hear it with its unholy excretion – at least not all of it anyway. Rather, the weakness of the album is that none of its songs ever really nail it, so to speak. The opening title track is catchy, but formulaic. It opens rather abruptly, and this makes it seem either rushed or overly confident. The rest of the album reveals it to be both, and the combination becomes detrimental.
Many of the songs have some very interesting effects built into the music, and the album as a whole features an interesting range of musical styles all executed with perfect technical precision. But, these creative effects and styles are lacking the outstanding hooks and easy accessibility that made the band’s debut so listenable despite the bleating inebriated vocals of lead singer Alec Ounsworth.
Several songs are okay, or even good, but none are great – often because they are confused, too long, overly repetitive, or just not catchy enough. Worse yet, “Yankee Go Home” and “Five Easy Pieces” are probably the two worst songs I have heard this year. Trust me, I listened to the full six and a half minutes of Ounsworth’s warbling underwater death cry in “Five Easy Pieces” so you wouldn’t have to. Still, there is hope for the band’s future as their talent is still clearly evident in the few moments of creativity that shine through on songs like the Animal Collective-inspired third track and the first half of “Goodbye to the Mother and the Cove.” Now, if only they can manage to temper their technical brilliance with a little more musical accessibility, their next album could be truly incredible.