Hee Hee by Claw Marks

Release date: August 17, 2018
Label: PNK SLM

Well now, this here’s a dank cellar full of twisted fun. As the door slams shut behind you realise, too late, that the signs were there the whole time. Hee Hee indeed. ‘The Coat’ opens with an ugly wailing siren of guitar, a sickly lurch into the darkness. Beneath the naked bulb Claw Marks take a cracked bucket and mix filthy garage punk with noise rock and stir in matted tales of the uncanny and unwholesome. It’s hot in here, close, they want you to drink deep. The cover features a selection of illustrations, simultaneously cack handed and reductively elegant. The kind of mysterious two colour images you used to get on match books and fruit crate labels. Cheap tarot cards. The central one shows the devil himself performing the old sawing a lady in half trick, only both ends of the box are heads. That’ll be for ‘Magic Trick’, of course! There’s an image for each track, but you just let your eye glide over them didn’t you? They been down here practicing a long time now and they’ve got this trick down.

‘The Rain’ starts with a steady bass swing eerily similar to Grey Hairs’ ‘Backwards’ and winds out into classic rock territory with some nice organ and ‘wooh, wooh’ ‘Sympathy..’ type backing vocals. It gets such a head of steam going that when it stops just after the five minute mark it feels as if they’ve shut it off early. By contrast ‘King Of Love’ is a short and driving punk rock tantrum. There’s even a dash of Dead Kennedy’s surf punk in both the brawling, sodden ‘Temple Of Wine’ and ‘Bone Dance’. The latter a tragically missed opportunity for some go-go handclaps if ever I heard one.

Claw Marks was born in the Texan desert, of members of Human Hair and Boneyards. They wanted to get heavier, weirder, more aggressive. To make records that sounded like The Jesus Lizard but not take themselves too seriously. I don’t know about you friends but whenever I see the names Jesus Lizard or Birthday Party in the promo hype for a new band my cold, dark, heart just sinks and it hardens against them. I’ve endured too many wannabes and pale shadows, missing the point. Claw Marks have slowly won me over though. Partly because there’s a noticeable but not embarrassing amount of influence in there but mostly because they have the sense to mix it with a lighter b-movie horror sensibility and their own song writing strengths. There’s something about them that reminds me of AmRep greats like Cows or God Bullies as well.

If Jack Lantern isn’t a stage name his parents sure had a sense of humour but either way he channels an odd mix of drunk preacher and Jello Biafra on ‘Book Of Vermin.’ He gets his bible thump on for ‘10,000 Commandments’ a curious sermon that falls far short of the number in the title, perhaps most pertinently railing “thou shalt not steal thy father’s drink”. For ‘Horrible Mess’ a drum machine kicks off a swaying pirate shanty. It’s got strumming and chanting, some unexpected sighing female backing vocals and a howling noise guitar solo in the middle. Beaten and weighed down in regret “what a horrible mess, I’ve become”, it seems a good note to end on but they aren’t having a bit of it, Lantern wipes his mouth on his sleeve and heads back to the bar. ‘Swallow U’ roars up, a surreal tale of a man going Godzilla down the street and eating everything he sees as he goes. It ends in a storm of noise and a resigned chant of “it comes as no surprise”. I was surprised they managed it though, or was I? Like the old sawing the lady in half trick, deep down you know it’ll be fine and yet somehow you’re still impressed by the way it’s done.

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