I heard an interesting thing today over the airwaves on the way into university. On the radio was local celebrity Paul Dempsey from a band called Something For Kate discussing his new ‘brooding emotional single’ with the morning show co-hosts but proffering, in his defence, that the group’s new album was peppered with a bunch of double handclaps here and there just to lighten the mood. If there has ever been a musical device for our times to make songs instantly more enjoyable (and no, Flo Rida, I am not talking about rapping it triplets, although that is a mighty cool trick you got yourself there), it has to be the handclap. The Phenomenal Handclap Band, despite their psych-soul leanings, were clearly onto a good thing when they came up with that name. The synthetic coming together of palms even lifted the quality of The Game’s ‘‘ long enough for us to forget that neither the title artist nor his feature in 50 Cent could effectively open their mouths properly. But the handclap is never used to more devastating effect than in indie rock.
Listening to Dempsey make light of the handclap as an inexorably lightening tool in the songwriter’s toolkit, I reflected on how there is no denying the potency that the humble striking of hands together has come to possess in the realm of indie rock. As something of a grammatical modifier, the handclap, used sparingly and briefly, can add emphasis, signal a change in direction for a song, act as an obvious demarcation between chorus and verse and lead to a heightening in tension as a track ratchets up to a big release. Read cynically, the handclap’s ubiquity could be seen to suggest a dearth of new ideas in the realm of upbeat rock – the type that now floods our shores, like bits of beautiful beach glass, once angular, now well-rounded and glinting in the sun. Claps opened Hungry Kids of Hungary’s sensationally jumpy ‘Wristwatch‘ two years ago and have since gone on to colonize the songs of many of this country’s finest new rock bands. That said, I don’t view the infestation as a sign of stasis but rather, an indication that when they are used, they’re used in an increasingly intriguing fashion in order to differentiate one clap-happy song from the next.
Melbourne band Jungle Giants’ ‘She’s A Riot’ is a case in point – choosing not only to go down the handclap path but to wholly embrace the human percussive device such that it pervades the length of their first mainstream successful single. Where there’s tact in sprinkling the handclap sparsely throughout your track, there’s even more to be found in pulling off almost 4′ of applause-filled excitement. Fittingly, applause is just what ‘She’s A Riot’ should be garnering as the young Jungle Giants – with only an EP to their name as yet – utilise sweet electric guitar riffs, brilliant vocal melodies and more of the everyday percussion to produce a song which, regardless of its clap-driven imperative, manages to sustain interest and a buzzing sense of euphoria all the way through. While has failed to really inspire, ‘She’s A Riot’ is exactly the kind of high-tempo, all-systems-go bop that you’d expect from the Irish lads. What Jungle Giants have proved with this track is that we no longer have to look overseas for rambunctious, inspired indie-rock. It’s right here in our backyards. Worth a round of applause by any measure.
Jungle Giants – She’s A Riot