Let’s all be honest for a moment about Canadians. They’re a sneaky bunch of people. Sure, that’s a generalization, but honestly, they tend to release decent music, they have a unique taste in their take on football, they hold questionable opinions of washed-up sports stars and they’ll challenge you to read signs in two languages.
On such Canadian is Fab Claxton. His almost “Kevin James’ fit younger brother” appearance may lead you to believe he carries a light alt-rock sound, perhaps some humor tossed into the mix.
Now let’s remember the previously stated “Sneaky Canadian” comment.
Because you’re wrong.
Fab Claxton is the exact result you’d get from putting Dexter Holland, Elvis Costello and Black Francis in shopping cars and sending them on a collision course with each other behind an old abandoned building covered in street art. The punky/fuzz-rock style of Claxton immediately snags your attention. Screeching harmonious vocals inlaid with distorted riffs and loud beats is the blend served up on his 2012 release Spazzamatazz.
The compilation of his first two EPs, Ramalama Sasquatch and Amped Up Real High, Spazzamatazz is an eight track adventure of vintage punk-meets-rock sound that is surprisingly addicting and not from someone in the UK. I mention the UK only because Claxton seems to have an unnaturally keen ability to keep his sound on a pulse that has often been attempted but seldom recreated in other parts of the world. He incorporates a punk style with funky grooves and anthems throughout the album. Tracks like “She’s Trying To Fix Me” and “These Bones (Really Get Around)” will settle easily with fans of late 80s/early 90s punk and “Tomorrow Might Not Come” and “(Sha-La-La-La) Lights Out” add a flavor of Southern California inspired funk. Relentless guitar and rhythm section build a powerful character out of Spazzamatazz.
His sound is a vintage homage spiked with infectious, as he puts it, “gonzo-rock madness.” Like a chaotic storm of sound held at bay by a diminishing lasso of respective self-control, Spazzamatazz is a wonderful collaboration of influence, attitude and unrelenting art. I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. After all, if this is what we’ve evolved to after Randy Bachman and Tom Cochrane, who the hell knows what we’ll hear next. Like I said, those Canadians, they’re sneaky.
A trend I have written about over and over here at Nanobot is the cyclical nature of music – as calendar pages fly away, themes renew themselves. In so many artists, you can pluck their influences out of the air around their songs, and you can almost set a clock by when sounds start rearing their heads out of their pop culture dormancy. The influence always seems to be in the 20 to 30 year range and is an outright revival in some cases and subtle notes in others.
So where does our friend Fab Claxton fit into that? 20-ish years could put him anywhere from grunge to post-NWA hip-hop to late eccentric pop. Well, it’s a whole lot of the latter – but it is hyper-specific. There is no doubt he is influenced by the Pixies and the Stone Roses, but what struck me was how he captures the optimism of the fall of Communism feel the early 90s. You know, just without the whistling winds of change Klaus Meine sang about. This might not make a lot of sense to anyone who wasn’t paying attention at the time, but there was a bevy of songs that came out from 1989 to 1992 that just sounded, well, happy.
So I get my hands on Fab Claxton’s EP, Spazzamatazz, and I hear that happiness in each track. From the furious opening of “Call Me When the Heat Dies Down,” the 1990 pop sound steamrolls into rockabilly, punk and pre-grunge alternative, wonders where the heck it is and goes running naked into a field. Jangly and soulful riffs tear through your body while gravelly vocals proclaim eccentricities like “when you pull back the curtains, the wizard is AWOL.” The optimism shows up in each chord progression, each “ooh ooh ooh” in “If You Want Me Around,” every “sha-la-la-la”, and in the cowbell strikes of “These Bones (Really Get Around).” Each track is a punk length 2 to 3 minutes long and when the 24 minute ride ends with the singalong “Tomorrow Might Not Come,” I don’t want the good times to end. I have a debate with myself if I should go through the effort of finding another album to listen to or just hitting repeat.
Maybe Spazzamatazz awoken some deep down nostalgia, but I think that would do the music a disservice. It is incredibly hooky; though I don’t expect to hear “Settling For You” on the radio anytime soon. I think the sound is a little too quirky for the mainstream, but my guess is Fab Claxton enjoys it that way. Social currency is a weird thing; sometimes it pays to be the oddest, most interesting sound to come out of Canada since Bootsauce than it does to push a million copies. And therein lies the great part about Fab Claxton and his album, he’s offering it for free on his Bandcamp page. He wants you to enjoy his bright and odd sound. So please, go download it and dance like a jerk; you know you want to.