By Alex Huynh - Losing My Edge - 09/02/2005

It sure didn't take long now, did it? Only a year after music blogs started a "grass-roots" movement that almost singlehandedly kickstarted cult followings for eventual critical darlings M.I.A., Arcade Fire and the Go! Team, we are already wary of the music industry vultures that have infiltrated this new way of promoting bands. It started with the eye-rolling that came with the incessant and now accepted pairing of Pitchfork and Arcade Fire, it continued with the increased attention labels gave to those music blogs by providing them with advance promos and we are now at the crossroads with a New York band called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!.

The hype for the famously unsigned group seemed so strangely calculated that there is a discernible backlash -- against a band that quite frankly are miles away from even being blips on the radar, no less. Yet their self-produced, self-released and self-titled album quickly ran out of stock once the review was posted up on Pitchfork and their live shows have been selling out, all basically through the power of the Internet. The nagging feeling persists, however, that we are being played. No matter, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! is a wonderful album that manages to tug at the right chords and straddles the line between desperation and urgency. But in order to finally legitimize this act as a real band, one that could inch a place into your personal history, they needed their live shows to shatter this feeling that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! is merely a well-conceived creation.

In that regard, their first performance in Montreal failed. To be fair, the rules are different and stricter for a band in this unique position. That is why it was disappointing that a group cunning enough to get where they are, would plod through the opening number when a statement was needed. The vocal mix was abrasive and maintained at that level for the first few songs, serving only to give ammunition to haters of Alec Ounsworth's distinctive yet familiar style. Overall, the band played uninspiredly and sloppily without much in the way of charisma. Thankfully, there are a handful of songs that are so good that they manage to rise about these shortcomings, particularly "In This Home On Ice" and "Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood". Still, these loaded and emotionally volatile songs are ultimately wasted on this unspectacular performance. They deserved to be carved into our memories, like all great songs are.

Surely, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! did not ask for all of this. Unfair expectations are placed on their shoulders by fickle fans and an overly enthusiastic press. This would burn out a lot of folks, so perhaps they did give us everything they had. Word is that they were held back at the border and didn't have time for a sound check. However, one still walks away from the show feeling that this was not a hungry band. And because of that, they feel barely worth the trouble to defend against the kneejerk haters. If you can't stick up for a band that you like, where's the emotional investment? This question wouldn't arise if it wasn't for the fact that their music on record is capable of building into genuinely euphoric moments. It is warm and exciting, and it seems to come more from the heart than the brain. Yet live, it appears that the opposite is closer to the truth. So then, are we being played?

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