Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was once able to inspire both praise and derision in ample quantities, but it's telling that most listeners will find themselves unable to feel strongly about the band's middling third album, Hysterical.
Those swept away by the quirky charms of the group's debut, or the sinewy pleasure of its overlooked follow-up, will find little to reaffirm such feelings. Meanwhile, those who always hated the group's spastic aesthetics—signified through the nasal histrionics of frontman Alec Ounsworth—will be nonplussed by the album's yawning execution.
The intriguing achievements of Hysterical are more parenthetical than all-encompassing: a psychotropic drone during a breakdown of the sparkly "Misspent Youth"; the frenzied pileup at the end of closer "Adam's Plane"; the distorted bits of "The Witness' Dull Surprise." Ounsworth still adroitly piles up the casually surreal imagery, but the band submerges it under a deluge of melody; such is the case with the feverish depictions buried in the lurching, thick drive of "Hysterical."
Still, the group can toss off a charmer with such ease that it makes the misfires even more aggravating. Opener "Same Mistake" offers a gloriously galloping take on synth-pop, while "Siesta (For Snake)" finds appeal in blissfully stoned and floating atmospherics.
One wonders if the extended break between albums (over four years) hurt its chemistry. There is a dogmatic adherence to a glossy, synth-driven sound that makes one wish Ounsworth borrowed more from his funky solo effort (Mo Beauty) with New Orleans session musicians.