It was the first night of the annual NME shows (so rock ’n’ roll that they’re sponsored by hair products) when the ‘hottest’ new bands who are being hyped by everyone around get to strut their stuff of several London stages. Friday was Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s second gig in London, and Koko is quite a big one for a band at this stage in their career, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. More on that later. First, the support...
Dr. Dog are apparently mates of CYHSY, and their fuzzy Americana is the perfect foil to the headline act’s NYC Talking Heads-ish cool. They’re an energetic bunch too – it was pretty hard to get a photo as they twisted their hairy frames around the stage, even missing the mike on occasions. But it was good stuff – that’s the advantage with not having any expectations of a band. Some nice surprises, particularly the last song – a gloriously ragged tune called Wake Up. With the demise of Grandaddy, we need another beardy American rock band, and Dr. Dog seem like the ideal replacements.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have the opposite problem to their mates – too much expectation. Ever since the music mags, websites and the blogosphere went crazy for them last year, they’ve got a hell of a lot to live up too. And in a way I feel sorry for them. They play a big gig like this a bit too early and I'm not sure they have what it takes to justify such a lofty slot. Not that it was a bad show – their album highlights like ‘Is This Love’ and ‘My Yellow Country Teeth’ were great live. But one problem was that they were played early in the set, leaving me thinking, ‘what are they going to do now?’. There were a few numbers I hadn’t heard (i.e. not on the album - were they new?), but they weren’t that good, and I got the impression that their material was being stretched a bit thin. Frontman Alec Ounsworth isn’t much of a singer (CHYSY probably stand or fall with you on whether or not his vocals annoy you), which is not necessarily a bad thing, but his vocal deficiencies are exacerbated in the live setting, which in turn was made worse again by the vocals being too low in the mix.
However, there was enough in their set to enjoy, and the gig was rescued at the end by a fine cover of Neil Young’s Helpless (a song I love). Not one that you'd have espected CYHSY to do, and it made sense that they were joined onstage by Dr. Dog doing extra backing vocals and general messing about. A fine end to a patchy gig.
NME has an article on this gig which features their obession with celebrity gig attenders (why?) and a tracklisting (but the writer obviously hasn't heard 'Helpless' before - what's this about 'Heights'??)