1995, September / Clawhammer

Thank The Holder Uppers


Allegedly named in honor of things that hold up other things -- coat racks and the like -- Holder Uppers finds Claw Hammer running smack dab into major label territory and...getting away with it, actually. Wahl's crazy wail is perfectly intact and everyone sounds like they're sprawling all over the place musically, but just right. Opening track "Superthings" seems like it's never going to end, one shift in crunch and energy after another, all done at once tight and totally loose, if you will. Don't ask exactly how they do it, but Claw Hammer just have the knack of combining maximum impact with the sense that everything is going crazy at once. . Wahl and Bagarozzi go off throughout on a series of dueling guitar manias -- check out the instrumental break on "Sweaty Palms" or the bites and snarls on "Lazy Brains." Throughout, meanwhile, the addition of piano, sax and, from Wahl, harmonica and trumpet adds to the barely controlled but sometimes perversely beautiful chaos of Holder Uppers. When the harmonica kicks in towards the end of "Blind Pig," it captures something between an old-fashioned rave-up and seething punk tension. Though sometimes things calm down to surprisingly levels -- "Five Fifths Dead" starts off as a slow piano ballad/spoken word piece, at least until the piano turns honky tonk and the band fires up once again into the usual hoohah. In sum, think of Funhouse-era Stooges with a few more instruments and slightly quiet moments, almost as good a vocalist and crisp production, and there's Holder Uppers in a nutshell.

By Ned Raggett