POP MUSIC REVIEW : Tight, Loud Songs From Claw Hammer

If loud were a genre unto itself, Claw Hammer would be its superstars. The L.A. quartet, a respected entity on the indie-rock circuit for more than five years, plays heavy-duty grooves stuffed with punk-rock chaos, all at ear-busting levels. With noise being a prerequisite for underground notoriety these days, Claw Hammer's edge is that it can actually play.

The sparse audience at the Troubadour on Wednesday held its ears in twisted delight while the band ground out long, tight, riff-heavy songs. The hourlong set was both intense and driving, but also slightly indulgent--the group's endless jams probably impressed fellow musicians, but for the average fan, the long-winded tangents grew somewhat exasperating.

Singer Jon Wahl sounded like a cross between AC/DC's Bon Scott and a diabolical Jerry Lewis. His vocals would have been incredibly annoying in any other context, but here they spiked the thunderous music with bite. The band churned it out with no banter between numbers, plowing straight through the set like a possessed tractor.

The only problem was that the band often showed little regard for the audience. There's a fine line between doing your own thing for art's sake and over-indulging. Claw Hammer crossed that line far too freely.

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