CLAMM – ‘Care’ review: desperation and despair bottled up in volatile noise punk

The Melbourne punk trio vent frustration and helplessness in a second album that points to a intriguing creative future

For a brisk, one-syllable album title, the word ‘Care’ hangs heavily over the second album from Melbourne punk trio CLAMM. Here, it captures feeling personally invested in the world around you, whether you want to be or not. And with the pandemic’s fallout still being felt two years after the band’s 2020 debut ‘Beseech Me’, these 15 songs consistently boil over with frustrations that will be familiar to many of us.

The most direct portal into those feelings of helplessness and desperation is lead single ‘Bit Much’. Flaring with feedback before launching properly into a slashing attack, this three-minute anthem centres on vocalist/guitarist Jack Summers’ battle to not buckle under the one-two punch of his personal mental health and mounting worries about the world at large. “It can be a bit much,” he repeats, with a knack for bone-dry understatement that’s echoed in the album title.

Compared to CLAMM’s first record, ‘Care’ is more layered, textured and inward-looking. Featuring some additional instrumentation from recording engineer Nao Anzai (synth) and Mangelwurzel’s Anna Gordon (saxophone), these songs often bear a grimy film of disorienting effects and overdriven noise. ‘Something New’ is a glowering showcase of Summers’ anxiety, as he describes searching for answers against the clock in his daily life. The groggy combination of vocals and production evokes Danish post-punks Iceage, while other songs hew closer to Aussie contemporaries like CIVIC and Body Type.

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Bassist Maisie Everett – who also plays in Belair Lip Bombs and came aboard CLAMM between albums – eventually joins Summer for vocals on that track, but she’s even more effective providing the dual lead on the call-and-response single ‘Monday’, a more direct and poppy anthem in the vein of Pinch Points. Summers’ best friend since primary school and hard-hitting drummer Miles Harding keeps that track charging ahead just as much as the needling guitar and burly bass do.

Short and volatile, these songs are brash little detonations on their own but feel all the more impactful when lined up together. The mantra-like lyrics aren’t always intelligible – especially compared to Summers’ clearer guest turn as sos on Harvey Sutherland’s recent single ‘Type A’ – but they still carry a gnawing sense of despair. And when they do cut through, as on ‘That Way’ (“I’ve been dealing with some personal shit”) or ‘I Can Do It’ (“I think I’m overthinking”), it feels like a spontaneous revelation shared amid the tumult of a packed live show.

As uniformly intense as the album might feel on first listen, there’s also enough contrast between clarity and obscurity to distinguish individual tracks from each other. Summers’ almost whooping vocal delivery on the sax-haunted ‘Fearmonger’ really stands out, as does the spacey synth that acts as a sort of ignition key to the brutal, coiled repetition of ‘NRG’. Slower at both start and finish, ‘Buy’ points to the potential mileage that CLAMM could get out of decelerating in the future.

Likewise, Everett’s turn at the mic on ‘Monday’ leaves us hoping for more tandem vocal attacks on the next record. CLAMM show off enough different facets on ‘Care’ to assure listeners they have a lot of directions to grow in, whether they choose to nurture their more melodic or more chaotic sides, or continue to churn away in between.

Details

CLAMM - Care

  • Release date: August 19
  • Record label: Chapter Music
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