Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Dr Dog

Adam Simons 07/02/2006

First things first, Dr Dog is a terrible band name. Then again, I challenge any reader to find a band that has the word “dog” as a basis of its name and doesn't have a terrible band name. Thankfully though, the moniker doesn't affect their music (unlike the equally rubbishly named and sounding Dogs). Dr Dog are fun, and in this context this is not used with any sarcastic undertones or derogatory connotations. They provide the sort of smile inducing endearing pop folk rock that fans of The Shins and The Shout Out Louds will most likely fall for. On top of this there are elements of Queen and the Bee Gees in the multi-harmonies, some Bends-era Radiohead rawk; hell, on one number they even bring out the funk.

Lead vocal duties are shared between the bassist, Toby; a beardy type whose vocal style varies from warm and sweet to an almost comedy death metal bark, and the lead guitarist, Scott; a less nasal Bob Dylan sound-alike and look-alike if Dylan had come into contact with a set of GHDs. With their homely songs and rattling rhythms, this (mostly) bearded set of outsiders has the crowd smiling and stomping along. Some of the song structures might not carry well on record, but with a well rounded professional performance; live, they are a band to keep an eye on.

Billed as the US's version of The Nordic Chimps (or whatever they are called), the story of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's internet based DIY success is one you're most likely to have heard; you are also more than likely to hear the word “hype” a lot too, whether it be self, fan or media circulated or otherwise. Other things you are likely to hear concerning CYHSY is lead singer Alec Ounsworth's “love it or hate it” voice and a shoddy live performance.

Whether the hype is deserved or not, a shoddy performance is one thing tonight they can't be accused of. However, live Alec's voice is more of an issue of contention. Whereas on record it is brilliantly idiosyncratic and nuanced, live it does not always carry; often sounding flat and nasal, drowned underneath the weight of music. Occasionally, however, it shines, especially on “Details of the War” which though stripped down to its rudiments becomes epic through its tightness and the full tone of Alec's voice and guitar.

With certain groups it is hard to avoid ignoring the rest of the band and fixating on the front man, and with CYHSY this is a notable irony; Alec is perhaps only standout because of his balding lecturer like appearance, normal in other contexts but here different and, dare I say, cool, because of the typical indie band appearance of his band mates and the appearance of other indie bands as a whole. Not to say that the rest of the band are expendable; in fact, in comparison to Alec, they really seem to enjoy it, their smiles beaming through the show. However it is evidently Alec's party, the set including “We Met At The Cemetery,” a song which is circulating on the internet in solo form, and his stage presence is most definitely captivating; he knowingly stalks the stage, twisting and mouthing to himself like Napoleon Dynamite intimidating Chuck Berry (though in a more reserved manner than that suggests).

The set doesn't exclude any notable songs, they throw in a fair few new songs; “Satan Say Dance” going down the best, with its synth jingle and lyrics something like “My face is purple, my eyes are red and my feet are green, if you know what I mean”; the final line being delivered with a knowing glare. The band leaves to mass applause and come back for a well-deserved encore, delivering album opener “Clap Your Hands” which becomes a mass sing-along. A mostly enjoyable night; any problems with the sound were minor, and next time I'll be sure to get in early and not have to rely on eBay touts.