Currently comprised of founding trio Jack Lantern (vocals), James Burgess (guitar), and Tom Pitts (guitar) with new additions Victor Jakeman (bass), Tom Pitt (drums) and Sev Black (keys), the London-based punk act Claw Marks can trace their origins to when its founding trio were in Austin, TX for SXSW with different bands back in 2013 — Lantern and Pitts were members of Human Hair, while Burgess was a member of Boneyards. As the story goes, Lantern, Burgess and Pitts got lost waling down a highway in the Texan desert when they came to the realization that they wanted to make something much more aggressive, that would channel the likes of Swans and The Birthday Party, but while maintaining the pop sensibility that won Human Hair attention. Ultimately, they felt the need to prove that you can make records that could sound like The Jesus Lizard or The Pop Group — without taking yourself too seriously.
For several years, the band primarily existed as a live outfit, playing raucous, riotous shows across their native London — including a memorable 3am first gig at an abandoned pub. “It was my birthday, and intoxicants may have been involved,” the band’s Jack Lantern recalls. “The show cemented us as a band, because we were playing in the confines of a place that was so similar to the spine of what we were trying to put across. The place was dilapidated, the walls were falling down, and when we started playing, the ceiling started shaking, and dust was raining down on us. And then somebody let off a fire extinguisher halfway through the set, and we were covered in dust and foam.”
With the addition of Jakeman, Pitt and Black, the band continued to develop their overall aesthetic, balancing a chaotic live, stage presence with very specific ideas about lyrical imagery and content. “It’s abotu putting weird images to song,” Lantern, who is also a poet says in press notes. “Usually, they’re a bit disgusting – an armpit full of lice, for example. Or a crab covering your arsehole and stopping anybody from trying to climb in there. We’ve got one song about evil, silent cops staring us down while rubbing their truncheons in their mouths. You know, that kind of thing.”
However, their debut album together has taken five years to write and record — with some of the songs dating back to when the band first started. The members of the band kept returning to East London’s Sound Savers Studio, where they were afforded time and space by co-owner Henry Withers, who was a former bandmate of Lantern’s, to continually refine the material, and eventually their overall sound. In fact, every time they returned, the songs evolved in a rather unpredictable fashion. “I’ve been telling people that the album aged like a fine wine, because it took so long to come together,” Lantern says. “But actually, I’d liken it more now to a slab of rotten meat. We allowed it to fester, and every time we came back to it, there’d be more flies buzzing around it, and this new form of bacteria growing on the chords.”
Ultimately, Claw Marks long-anticipated full-length album Hee Hee reportedly is an unapologetically and nasty collection of punk rock songs that thematically speaking range from the absurd to the political — but much like Tom Waits, the songs having a fucked up, off-kilter, whiskey-fueled vibe. “Swallow U,” Hee Hee‘s latest single is noisy and furious punk rock centered around distortion bathed guitar chords, forceful drumming and howled lyrics and while sonically, the song brings to mind Rollins Band‘s Weight and Get Some Go Again but with an absurdist bent, as the song according to the band is literally about a man who walks down the street, eating everything in his path. What makes the track intriguing to me is the fact that it effortlessly meshes art rock with furious, mosh pit friendly punk.