Getting into music that is different can sometimes be fun. You enjoy it and everyone else wonders “who is this guy and how on earth does he enjoy this shit?” One of my favorite bands and, by no coincidence, favorite examples of a band with a strange sound is Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (or CYHSY). To fully understand what I mean you really only need to listen to about a minute of their most well known song “The Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth.” The music is nothing short of extremely catchy, it’s the voice that most people find troubling. The voice of Alec Ounsworth.
Not many people know of my idolization of CYHSY lead singer Alec Ounsworth. His lyrics are up there with those of Bob Dylan, Frank Black, Jim Morrison and those fellas from the Beatles for me. The lyrics are just as odd as his voice which meshes well with the random side of your personality (yes, I am talking about YOU).
As his purposefully off-key voice sings “a clean shave in the morning, a full beard with no warning. Time has gotten by on alibis and wine,” in Over and Over Again (Lost and Found), you see images of a beard re-growing over and over again while wine bottles and hour glasses spin in your head, then you realize the weirdness is contagious.
Ounsworth has written some of the best music I have ever heard, and in a series of posts about modern songwriters I am writing I plan to delve deeper into his lyrics as well as those of others. Here is a sample of his lyrics from “Satan Said Dance,” a song that highlights how Satan really runs things in the underworld:
“How did I arrive in a place like this, red right hand does the alligator kiss.
My hair turns white and my face turns green, but my feet are still moving if you know what I mean.
Satan said dance.
He says to me to shake around and don’t stop ’til you hit the ground.
And I know it’s not what you thought it would be.
No whips, no chains just dancing dancing dancing dancing dancing dancing dancing dancing dancing dancing dancing dancing dancing dancing.
Satan said dance.”
CYHSY reached unprecedented levels in 2004 by selling six figures worth of their self-titled debut album (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah) via internet exposure and did it without the help of a record label. They were touted as “the next big thing” by many music outlets and attracted fandom from the legendary David Bowie and David Byrne. SO, the reason you may not have them in your iTunes is the same reason I admire Alec Ounsworth, he and CYHSY want nothing to do with the spotlight. They are really only interested in making music, and in the current landscape of popular music this mindset is rare.
The music they make has evolved quickly over the span of two albums. The second album, Some Loud Thunder, explores a notably less “mainstream” sound that continues to sidestep the norm. Admittedly it took me longer to enjoy the whole album, but I am there now.
As far as presents, musical Christmas has come for I have compiled a playlist of my favorite tracks by CYHSY for YOU! YES! Here it is: CYHSY.
With a third album due for release September twentieth I leave you with just enough time to get into this band and enjoy the two songs they have released thus far from the upcoming album “Hysterical“: Maniac and Same Mistake.
just remember weird and different are and always will be, the new cool.