Buzz wears off on solo debut from Clap Your Hands singer Alec Ounsworth

Sometimes indie-rock’s emphasis on buzz overlooks the fact that buzz wears off, and then what?

If there’s a solid foundation beneath the hype, it’s no problem: you get a great band with the potential for a productive career, barring break-ups, drug habits, celebrity girlfriends or any of the other things that short-circuit promising careers. If the foundation is shaky, though, you’re left with middling artists who have an inflated sense of their creative impulses.

Sad to say that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah seems to fall into the latter category, an opinion reinforced by front man Alec Ounsworth’s new solo album.

The band earned buzz not least for its independent mindset: Clap Your Hands released its 2005 self-titled debut entirely on its own, which appealed to the music blogs that lauded the group’s jittery, carnival-esque indie-rock songs and Ounsworth’s nasal vocal delivery.

The shtick wore a little thin on the second album, 2007’s “Some Loud Thunder,” and is borderline grating on Ounsworth’s solo debut, “Mo Beauty” (Anti). With apologies to Gertrude Stein, there’s no there there.

Despite an ace backing band that includes Meters bassist George Porter Jr. and Galactic drummer Stanton Moore, along with Robert Walter on keys and Matt Sutton on baritone and pedal-steel guitars, “Mo Beauty” is mostly just another batch of clattering, indistinct songs that don’t really do much.

They’re livened up here and there with a sweet New Orleans groove: The interplay between the piano and Dixieland horns is sublime on “Idiots in the Rain,” and Ounsworth is uncharacteristically restrained over subdued acoustic guitar and piano on “Holy Holy Moses (Song for New Orleans).”

Mostly, though, the album finds Ounsworth engaged in the vocal equivalent of flopping around like Kermit the Frog during one of his freak-outs, and such studied idiosyncrasy on songs that don’t rise higher than these simply grows wearying by the end.

— Text by Eric R. Danton, photo by Michael Regan

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