One of the late pleasures of having been the world's most dogmatic music fan in the late '80s-early '90s is belatedly, a decade and a half later, discovering bands that cooler heads were listening to at the time the performers were actually in existence. The most recent Exhibit A is Claw Hammer -- they were at their peak when I was too busy buying everything on Revelation Records to notice, and they carried the dual stigma of having long hair and being on Epitaph, which automatically got them lumped in with (f'rinstance) R.K.L.
So a few months back, I spent an idle night at work paging through Agony Shorthand and marking down bands that sounded interesting, and noticed multiple raves-in-passing about CH, and so, why not? Why NOT give them a try?
Yeah. Absolutely fantastic. The band undoubtedly played Tucson's DPC a bazillion times when it was my refuge, and I missed them? Crazy stuff - confident creative punk rock, and good God, Jon Wahl's got one of the most distinctive singing styles out there, a loopy, fucked-up yowl that's all over the map. First thing I got was "Pablum," reputedly their high-water mark, and if they never did anything better, that's nothing to be ashamed of. It should've been a formative album of my hardcore years (it came out in 1993, at the height of that period) -- it's a pity that I didn't hear it 'til I was 32 YEARS OLD.
The other day, I picked up their swan song (I think - a less lazy blogger would check it, wouldn't they?) "Hold Your Tongue and Say Apple" - it came out on Interscope in '99 or so, and judging by the label and the fact that you can find promo copies for $0.01 on Amazon, probably sold about six copies. It's a pity, too -- while not the unbridled awesomeness of "Pablum," it's perhaps even more risk-taking, and provides an effective bridge to Wahl's next batch of excellent, about which more anon. And "Sugar Breath" - track number five, friends -- is the latest song to completely dominate my life, and wear out my right index finger stabbing at the "repeat" button on the car CD changer.
Now that they're long gone, the only living survivor appears to be Wahl's new band, the Amadans. I've got "Sour Suite," which is worthy and fantastic -- a friend compares it to Roxy Music, I hear... country lounge?, but either way, it's been another constant player. It came out in 2001, and Wahl's apparently been kind of quiet since then -- his "semi-official web page" hasn't been updated in a few years now, since an entertaining anti-Stones rant. But lo! There's a new(er) CD, "Iron Nails Run In," on Rudek Records, available frightfully cheap. I'm ordering it today and suggest you do the same. I figure I have some seriously negative musical karma now, for choosing to give my money to Insted and Judge while these guys were around, and this is the only real option to make things right.