“The only sin left is being slow, old-fashioned. To simplify matters, now there is a single standard. And that, a low one. The drink is gin. The music, jazz.” – Fred Allen, The Jazz Age, 1956
Yeah, I got a bit swept up after my first listen to through the latest (and last) from Clamor & Claw. As I type this, I’m blotto on gin rickeys and bursting through a flapper gown. Reserve judgement ’til you’ve given it a spin. Then we’ll see who don’t know from nothin’.
This six-song EP is a time machine, a direct flight decades back to the dance floor at a hoppin’ juice joint that’s overflowing with hokum and hooch. “Clamor And Claw Theme” kicks off the party, a rollicking ragtime ditty complete with an old-timey radio introduction and delightful kazoo solo, courtesy of frontwoman Lisa Hastings. Press play and you’ll notice the colors around you fade to a crackling sepia while your body gradually starts to boogie to the beat.
Stephen Bennet’s zozzled trumpet opens “Cheddar Moon,” a goofy-sweet love song served up with classic New Orleans flair. It’s loaded with great performances; the duet of Hastings and Daniel Fiddler is perfectly playful, and Paul Brinnel nails his parts on piano, tenor sax and c. sax. It’s the perfect score to a walk in the park on a sunny day, especially if you’ve got a hand to hold.
The temperature rises with “Down on the Bayou,” a brooding, seductive romp that swells over drummer Leo Peña’s measured percussion and Ed Sullivan’s gumshoe bassline. Fiddler’s bright melody cuts through the sweaty haze of Bennet’s accordion, while Brinnel conjures melodic, almost holy swirls on the organ that play foil to another raunchy trumpet solo. Peña gets heavier with his hits as “Bayou” winds down, slamming the bedroom door closed on a cymbal crash while Sullivan plucks out the denouement.
C&C offer the floorflushers one last chance to get their wiggle on with “(If I Had) Rhythm in my Nursery Rhymes,” another retro jaunt loaded with sparkling keys, a bopping beat and an enthusiastic performance from Hastings. Even the canceled stamps will want to find a gigolo, push the furniture back against the walls, and put this one on repeat.
How to cap off a night of sipping coffin varnish and swinging to Clamor and Claw? Take Off Your Clothes! Or rather, “Take Off Your Clothes,” a song whose come-hither call to action makes “Down on the Bayou” feel like a hymn. Hasting’s plays the vamp, cooing demands while Brinnel winds around her words with his saxophone. It’s a mesmerizingly sexy combo that’s punctuated by a curvy beat and subtle hits of guitar, organ, and musical saw. The song drifts and swirls like smoke coming off of the night’s last cigarette, passed between two spent and satisfied lovers in tangled sheets.
Clamor and Claw’s final reprise sounds like a club clearing out at the end of the night; a faint, stumbling waltz that’s got moonshine on its breath. It’s a perfect way to ease out of this alternate dimension of speakeasies, snake charmers and assorted rag-a-muffins. That this is both the first and last offering from C&C is bittersweet, but the good ones always leave you wanting more. As a final parting gift, the band also released a companion short-film that features songs from the EP. Watch below: