Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
New Fragility, Indie Exclusive 180G "Milky Clear" Vinyl LP
Alec Ounsworth admits to having written only one political Clap Your Hands Say Yeah song in the band’s previous 15 years of existence—though, to be fair, it’s one of his most popular, 2005’s “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood.” Ounsworth has never been a particularly candid lyricist either, his intentions usually assumed through his staunch commitment to independence and occasional antagonistic streak. These qualities once epitomized an indie-rock era of peak preciousness and pacifism, and taking this same approach on CYHSY’s first album since 2017’s The Touristwouldn’t just be dated, it’s basically inconceivable; artists, or really any empathetic being, are expected to be engaged, enraged, and open to expressing exactly how that feels. Ounsworth is no longer living in the abstract on New Fragility, the first CYHSY album in dialog with the outside world—and it’s a world of divorce, substance abuse, callous indifference to murder, and also bittersweet nostalgia for that bygone indie-rock era that gave him a platform in the first place.
Of course, your Facebook feed since 2016 tells you how this might go: being newly emboldened to say something about the accelerated decline of America doesn’t equate to having something new or profound to add. “Thousand Oaks” is an impassioned and righteous response to “an American massacre in Southern California,” inspired by the mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grille that left 12 dead and 16 more injured. But like nearly all impassioned and righteous songs written in response to mass shootings, “Thousand Oaks” makes a sarcastic invocation of “thoughts and prayers” that feels as limp and cliché as the real thing, if exponentially less pernicious. Yet with stories like the ones in “Thousand Oaks,” Ounsworth’s point about how quickly mass casualties are forgotten only becomes more poignant.
He’s more compelling when taking an oblique approach in his politics. On “Hesitating Nation,” Ounsworth’s nervy delivery captures a kind of exhaustion that will feel familiar to just about anyone alive today. “All of god’s children are useless to me now,” Ounsworth moans midway through, merging his newfound idealistic zeal with the breathless urgency of CHYSY’s beloved debut. -Pitchfork