Sunday, January 15, 2006


Three indie albums by three independent bands; who did it all by their lonesome, without the help of big brother to guide them. Let the bloodletting begin.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
(Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, 2005). Now let me see if I get this straight. I clap my hands and say, what? Wise ass comments aside, to call this Brooklyn’s answer to the Feelies would be too simple, though the first 20 seconds of “Is This Love” is a dead ringer for the lead in on The Good Earth’s “The High Road.” Actually the number one indie-alternative, MP3 blogger’s choice for statement of the year actually owes its sound to any number of influences from early Talking Heads to Yo La Tengo to Television. In fact singer Alec Ounsworth could pass for Tom Verlaine in my book any day. On “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” the “trebly” guitar is pure Marquee Moon. But while I don’t want to rain on their parade of accolades, these guys have a way to go before they equal, if not surpass, any of the aforementioned bands. Still, this is an impressive debut, made all the more impressive by the fact that they did it all on their own without the help of a major distributor. Pitchfork reviewer Brian Howe, whose review helped jumpstart the album’s success, commented, “Damn, maybe this is how it’s supposed to work.” Memo to Brian, it hasn’t worked that way since Buddy Holly left west Texas. A-

Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better (Domino, 2005). “I’m evil and a heathen,” Alex Kapranos defiantly declares in track 5, and you can believe him. Like the Smiths before them, these guys don’t hide their contempt for the straight and narrow. Like Morrissey before him, Kapranos has the voice to articulate that disdain. Check out “This Boy” and compare it to “This Charming Man,” and decide for yourself. So what if it took them two tries to get it off their chest, not to mention right. They’re gay; deal with it. Now if only someone could come up with an explanation for why “Eleanor, Put Your Boots On,” is supposed to be a love song to Eleanor Freidberger of the Fiery Furnaces. Sure it is. A-

Bright Eyes: I’m Wide Awake (Saddle Creek, 2005). Even if you don’t buy into Conor Oberst as the second coming of Dylan, and I don’t, you have to admit he does more with his talent than most prodigies these days. Just ask Ryan Adams. And while he does tend to get a little too morbid for comfort, as “We Are Nowhere, and It’s Now” will attest, give him points for at least being concerned that he’s so morbid. After all, most 20 somethings haven’t lived long enough to get that depressed, not without becoming Jackson Browne, which he definitely isn’t. A-

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