Album Review: CLAMM – Care

[Meat Machine; 2022]

CLAMM’s debut, 2021’s Beseech Me, showcased the band’s absorption of 80s punk and hardcore templates, highlighting their infectious indignation. With their new album, Care, the Melbourne-based trio hone their chemistry, various tracks featuring intriguing guitar work and rhythmic jams. The album further contemporizes CLAMM without compromising their commitment to a hardcore playbook.

Opening track “Scheme”, replete with guitar flares and staccato drum rolls, unfolds like a response to a Bad Brains prompt. “And the people outside don’t care about nothing,” Jack Summers snarls, he and the band oozing disillusionment. The somewhat related “Buy”, meanwhile, is CLAMM’s diatribe on commercialism, Summers’ indignant yet downcast delivery recalling Black Flag’s early work, particularly the bipolar tone of such songs as “Depression” from their 1981 debut. CLAMM succeed in conveying how the shadow of capitalism – alienation from humanistic values, priority given to productivity over quality of life – has been experienced in similar ways, perhaps via different trappings, for a very long time now.

In fact, CLAMM frequently succeed where successful punk/hardcore must succeed: in capturing, at least energetically, that a human life is to a great degree inseparable from the conditioning it undergoes. The hardcore band, much like a Marxist blues singer, rail against their and humanity’s myriad constraints, songs born of unshakable frustration and rage yet providing – for music-maker and listener alike – a profound, albeit short-lived, sense of catharsis.

For example, on the title song, amidst splintered guitars and frenetic rhythms, Summers screams, “lies lies lies,” purging his exasperation. He and the band are convincing – politically, socially, and metaphysically. In this sense, CLAMM and their precursors are inevitable compatriots of Philip K. Dick, who emphasized repeatedly that the cosmos, along with our social and political structures, is inherently dystopian. So much for: the universe is love.

As the 15-track sequence approaches closure, the band continue to hammer familiar hardcore themes, sonically and lyrically. The riff-y “That Way” brings to mind early Minor Threat via Incesticide-era Nirvana. “I think I’m overthinking / I think that I’m not,” Summers hisses on “I Can Do It”, wandering into slacker territory, a sarcastic take on the self-affirmation. Static-y guitars and drums throb in the background. On “Incompetence”, CLAMM excoriate governments, elected officials, and powermongers in general: the system and all that goes along with it, which may, unfortunately, be everything. To quote another punk ally, Jacques Derrida: “There is nothing outside the text.” We wouldn’t be distorting Derrida’s intent if we modified that statement into a hardcore credo: “There is nothing outside the system.”

With Care, CLAMM continue to reconfigure their sources and refine their methods, offering their take on the current age, fractured as it is by pandemics, climate change, acute financial instabilities, and the rise of the autocratic impulse. They bemoan the human tragedy, but in so doing, experience a fleeting high.