‘The Tourist’ is not without its charms, but you’re unlikely to stay for long.
Label: Undertow Music
Released: 24th February 2017
With the tools the internet has provided to bands – from Soundcloud to YouTube, Spotify to Snapchat – it’s easy to forget the tremors felt back in 2005 when a few MP3 blogs helped Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! make a success of bypassing the usual cogs and wheels of the industry machine, generating a huge amount of buzz for the five-piece’s self-produced, self-promoted and self-put-in-the-post debut.
And deservedly so: boasting at least a couple of minor classics, it was, and still is, an appealingly oddball, jittery indie-pop record, with a fairly unique sound (despite the odd hint of Talking Heads or Neutral Milk Hotel), largely down to frontman and songwriter Alec Ounsworth’s reedy yelp.
But 2007 follow-up ‘Some Loud Thunder’ got off to a bad start, with the bizarre decision to push the volume of the title track into Please Make It Stop territory, and never really recovered. Between then and ‘The Tourist’, Ounsworth now the only original member, there have been two further albums, neither having anything like the impact of their first.
Lightly sparkling with synths, breezy acoustics and high harmonies, ‘The Pilot’ is an opener heavy on atmosphere, but drifting nowhere, with ‘A Chance to Cure’ similarly aimless around a solid drum shuffle. It’s only on the tense, driving third, ‘Down (is Where I Want To Be)’, that the parts – vocals swimming in echo, drums straining at the edges of the beat, guitars edged with grit – first seem to cohere. But it’s a momentum ‘The Tourist’ struggles to keep up, never seeming to know quite what it wants to be, all too often content to meander, humming its own tune.
Alive, kicking, and tinged with arena-rockish optimism, with a lyrical nod to Lou Reed, ‘Better Off’ is a halfway-point highlight which reminds you how good CYHSY! can be, along with the taut, quite funky ‘Fireproof’, but it’s a patchy second side too, redeemed only – capping off a recurring theme of accident, emergency and illness – by the quite lovely closer ‘Visiting Hours’, dreamy jangle meeting interweaving lines of feedback drone. ‘The Tourist’ is not without its charms, but you’re unlikely to stay for long. Rob Mesure