Clutch Cargo

Colon Bruising Sounds (Hot Link Records)

You can't say that Denton's Clutch Cargo doesn't take care of business on its debut, Colon Bruising Sounds, blitzing through 11 tracks in less than 28 minutes. Produced by ex-Hagfish bassist Doni Blair, the disc is a constant sprint to the finish line, almost ending before it begins; the album makes the pop-punk of Blair's former band sound like Yes in comparison. Of course, praising a band for its brevity is often like saying a girl has a great personality, the sort of compliment that isn't really one at all. It's the kind of statement usually preceded by, "If nothing else..." -- meaning, it ain't good, but at least it's short. As applied to Clutch Cargo, it's merely stating a simple fact, the first thing you mention only because it's the first thing you notice.

It might also be the only thing you notice. The first two songs on Colon Bruising Sounds, "Drag" and "Fingercuffs," last about as long as Don Nelson draft picks, barely sticking around long enough to make an impression. Which makes "Schizo" seem like a stop sign on the Autobahn, appearing suddenly to pry Clutch Cargo's foot off the accelerator. But the song turns out to be a mere speed bump, a momentary pause before the group speeds off again, and it all starts to blend together after a while; Colon Bruising Sounds might better be referred to as one long song rather than a short album. All that really stands out is guitarist Drew Tidwell, playing like every note is his last -- which happens to be true: Tidwell left the group to concentrate on his master's degree immediately after the recording sessions for Colon Bruising Sounds ended. (The group recruited former Brutal Juice guitarist Ted Wood after Tidwell's departure.)

One other thing emerges from Colon Bruising Sound's blur: Clutch Cargo's affection for Baboon. It could be just a harmless crush, but singer Alex Karchevsky and Tidwell occasionally walk a very thin line between influence and imitation; at times, it almost sounds as if drummer Jeremy Shelby and bassist Chris Ott are backing Baboon's Mike Rudnicki and Andrew Huffstetler. When the chorus to "Excelsior" hits, you can imagine Huffsteler's ears turning red, or at least picture him pointing to the sky and rubbing his belly. Even the band's take on Devo's "Freedom of Choice" can't help engaging in a little, um, monkey business. For the most part, at least, the band's homage comes in bits and pieces, except for the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard riff on "Spicer" that is lifted wholesale from Baboon's "Rise." It's not enough to be actionable, and the band shows signs of coming into its own on songs such as "Shoelace" and the relentless "Fruity." But if Baboon is ever on Walker, Texas Ranger again, Clutch Cargo could be their stunt doubles.

 
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