Given that Idles are now playing stadium shows and appearing on ITV News, the time is ripe for some coattail riding. London’s Claw Marks sound so similar to the Bristolian punks that you could easily mistake this album for Joy As An Act Of Resistance if you hadn’t heard it before. Vocalist, Jack Lantern, in particular sounds like he took intonation lessons from Joe Talbot. The similarities with Idles are not merely aesthetic either. While the vocals and guitars are in the same style, it is the confrontational, sardonic tone, and song structures that are most noticeable. ‘10000 Commandments’ uses the same songwriting tropes as those seen on last year’s Brutalism. Nonetheless, Claw Marks know how to write a noisy, uplifting tune.
Hee Hee opens with the sleazy, discordant ‘The Coat’ which has shades of The Fat White Family who they have gigged with. They’ve also got a Fat White playing keyboards so the sonic connection is more than mere coincidence. In a similar vein, ‘The Rain’ has a ‘Touch The Leather’ vibe, and that’s no bad thing. It leers and swaggers while Lantern’s uvula gets a serious workout, like Jerry Mouse is in there using it as a punchbag.
That’s not to say that Claw Marks are rip-off merchants. This is an underground supergroup of sorts. As well as The Fat Whites, the band features members of Human Hair and Boneyards. These songs have been gestating for a few years and have only now seen the light of day. This is the perfect time for them to be heard. They play raucous, downtuned, progressive punk in a similar vein to Shellac, Arabrot, Future Of The Left, and even The Birthday Party and Butthole Surfers in places.
If loud, challenging, amorphous garage punk is your bag, then you’ll get a kick out of Hee Hee. If you can get past the resemblance to the headline grabbing Idles, Claw Marks offer a thoroughly modern take on punk music. It’s just a major hurdle to overcome. The shadow of Brutalism hangs heavily over this record. Claw Marks have been beaten to the punch. Had this record come out 18 months ago, they would have been rightly lauded. As it is, they may be swallowed in the wake of that leviathan.