Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Clawhammer - Get Yer Za Za Yout

This 1990 cassette-only release on Marc Mylar's Trigon Records was a recording of Clawhammer's live broadcast on Andrea 'Enthal's "Twelve O'Clock Rock" show on KPFK FM, Los Angeles, CA August 5, 1990. The band was at the peak of their power at the time with the incredible twin guitar attack of Jon Wahl and Chris Bagarozzi (two of the best players in town), backed by the rhythm section of bassist Rob Walther and drummer extraordinaire, Bob Lee. With equal measures blistering Detroit rock'n'roll and Captain Beefheart, this band tore up unsuspecting LA clubs and eventually signed with Epitaph and then Interscope. Unfortunately, their popularity was limited with the masses and they broke up in 2000. Everyone still plays and they have even done a reunion show sometime in the last few years.

Opening with the power-chord warning not to mess with Jon's girl, "Shell Shocked" blasts your mind right away with its quiet/loud changes, twin lead attack and odd time signatures. This segues right into the hyper speed "Sick Fish Belly Up" and, after a breather of a second or so, "Poor Robert", another hard-edged number that breaks down into a dual-guitar bridge (love their guitar interplay) and a monologue about Wild Man Fisher (at least that's how I remember the story). Continuing in the tale-telling mode, we get a story about Jon's giant of a brother, "Brick" Wahl, in "Brother Brick Says", another frantic rock'n'roller filled with righteous riffs and cooly controlled feedback. A quieter twin guitar interlude starts "Don't Walk Away", which then turns into a head smasher - crashing cymbals and bashing chords galore - filled with dynamics and Chris and Jon trading vocals. Just to show that they were capable of covering/arranging anything, they pull out Eno's "Blank Frank"  (elsewhere they did Beefheart's "Moonlight on Vermont") and then more of their own madness with riff-centric "Petri Dish" that concludes with a wild guitar orgy. An ode to their broken down vehicles, the frenzied "Car Down Again" (listing all of the ailments during a wild build up) precedes the A-side closer, "Naked", an intense, dramatic stomper, again packed with flying licks, heavy dynamics and stupendous soloing.

Flip the cassette over to side B and you get a 3-chord Detroit-rockin' monster, "Bullet In My Head", a convoluted "Papa's Got Us Tied Up in Knots" with its multiples time changes and starts'n'stops, and a torrid take on "Final Solution", with Chris singing and playing it with a manic intensity. Chris also takes lead vocals for the cacophonous "Drop II", "Succotash" is a steamy stew of guitar'n'harmonica work, "Three Fifteen" continues with more catchy, accented noise, and they finish the set with their take on Patti Smith's rockin' "Pumping (My Heart)".

As a guitarist, it was always a pleasure to watch Jon'n'Chris play off of each other with waves of feedback'n'fuzz - they were probably by favorite two guitar team in town at the time. I loved these early songs, as well and this is a great document of their talent - raw enough to keep the excitement and edge of a live show with good sound and wild performances. A number of bands released live records from their KPFK performances due to the sound quality and this is another great one. Find it!