Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Phenomenal Handclap Band - The Phenomenal Handclap Band (2009)


Released in 2009

The Phenomenal Handclap Band were a New York City-based psychedelic soul/funk six-piece band that released two excellent albums, in 2009 and 2012. Since then, nothing has been heard from them. They were the brainchild of Daniel Collás and Sean Marquand. I saw them live, supporting Bryan Ferry in 2011, and I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable supporting sets I have ever seen. They were great.


1. The Journey To Serra Da Estrela
2. All Of The Above
3. Testimony
4. Give It A Rest
5. You'll Disappear
6. 15 To 20
7. Dim The Lights
8. I've Been Born Again
9. The Martyr
10. Tears
11. Baby
12. The Circle Is Broken                  

"The Journey To Serra Da Estrela" begins with a slow bassy riff before the guitars arrive and then the drums and keyboards kick it into a swirling, slightly spacey but wonderful slice of rumbling contemporary funk. There are all sorts in here - rumbling bass, electronic noises, thumping drums, chunky guitar riffs, wah-wah licks. It is big, solid, punchy and a most impressive instrumental opener. Wind noises merge it into the funky rock of "All Of The Above". After a few minutes the vocals arrive, a high-ish pitched soulful male vocal together with female backing. It is impossible to categorize this stuff. It is rock, it is funk, it is soul, it is disco, it is art-rock. There is even some killer blues harmonica on this track. There are influences of Talking Heads floating around, but also hints of Krautrock, Prince, The Human League, OMD, Heaven 17, Groove Armada, dance period New Order, early Roxy Music amongst many other snatches. It would seem that Collás and Marquand had excellent record collections, the influences are manifold. Quite where the retro feel fits in with contemporary trends is unclear.

"Testimony" is a grinding, industrial funker, sort of Groove Armada meets U2, with some cinematic Kraftwerk-style keyboards and a mysterious, deeper vocal this time out. The guitar floats all around this dense number in a David Bowie "Heroes" sort of way. "Give It A Rest" sees some soul vibes arrive on the scene in a Sly & The Family Stone style, with a gruff lead vocal and melodic female backing vocals. It is quite intoxicating. Again, the guitar is superb. Lovely, rich bass line on it too. "You'll Disappear" is an absolutely thumping keyboard, bass, guitar and drum funk number. The deadpan female vocals are very Tom Tom Club, as indeed is the rhythm. It is also very disco-era Blondie meets "Manifesto" period Roxy Music.

"15 To 20" has some solid drums on the intro before we get some more cool, detached female chant-like vocals and some Blondie-style rapping. The bass line is delicious. "Dim The Lights" has an almost glam rock drum beat and and infectious rhythm underpinning it all. The male vocal is very Sly Stone influenced. There is even a "Spirit In The Sky" type riff at one point. "I've Been Born Again" is introduced by a blaxploitation-influenced kicking drum intro before some Santana-style guitar arrives. It is a most addictive number. "The Martyr" has some great fuzzy electric guitar and some serious funky riffs, on both guitar and organ. It has some sixties vibes in places.

"Tears" is probably most Taking Heads influenced of the songs on the albums, sounding like something from "Speaking in Tongues". It is the most poppy and commercial on there too. Some brief West African vocals come in at the end. "Baby" has some echoes of Al Green's seventies soul in is vocals, although the rhythm is far ore a dance music/sampling type thing. The track never quite gets there for me, simply repeating the same verse over and over, although the beat is innovative and intoxicating, though. It has that Norman Cook feel to it. "The Circle Is Broken" is a spacey, airy, extended closer to this interesting album. Well worth a listen.


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