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The Demonís Claws - Satan's Little Pet Pig

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Artist: The Demonís Claws

Album: Satan's Little Pet Pig

Label: In the Red

Review date: Aug. 23, 2007

Demon's Claws recorded most of Satan's Little Pet Pig on the suitably demonic date of June 6, 2006, and judging from the noise level, apparently in a subway tunnel with trains running through from time to time. It'll take you a couple of listens to get through the surface noise to the songs themselves, and innumerable more before you can catch even a scrap of lyrics, but hold on, it's worth it. No amount of fuzz or echo can obscure the fact that this is one of the best rock and roll records of 2007.

Coming out of the same Montreal garage scene as Mark Sultan (he's filled in for them on drums occasionally), Demon's Claws straddles the line between Stones-ish country blues rock and pogo-beat punk rock. Straddles, though, may not be the word. What they do is muddle up the ground between the two. Their 12/8 blues vamps have the hard-scrubbed aggression of punk rock; you think that guitarist will surely break a string as he bangs out the three-based break in "Gun to My Head." And conversely, even their most undiluted stomps, like "1000 Rounds" have a country heart. They're just pushing their rockabilly jangle to flat-out punk speed.

It's the kind of sound that comes across best in small, dark venues, and Demon's Claws is already building a reputation as a killer live band. So itís probably not surprising that the band's second full-length (a self-titled came out in 2005, followed by a live EP last year) is pretty much devoid of studio trickery. The objective, it seems clear, is to stand there with a microphone and try to channel their ferocious energy. That works pretty well with the disc's strongest songs. The massive chords and galloping beat of "Shadow of a Castle" come through clean and strong. The title track, too, with its rackety, 4/4, everybody-jump-straight-in-the-air beat, runs like a freight train, clattering over every possible obstacle at ridiculous, ampíd up speed. And "1000 Rounds" Ė starting with singer Jeff Clarke screaming like he's being electrified Ė is rough-edged, a triumph of Western surf chords crashing on top of each other while Clarke sputters about the "price of sin." Crappy recording quality swallows up "Unemployment" in fuzzy incoherence. The mix is weird, with drums on top and whoever is closest to the system getting second billing. That's okay, though. It becomes clear early on that their drummer is insanely good, and also maybe just insane, because no one could push that hard, song after song, without something flying loose.

There are some slower songs, also pretty good, where the band's blues-y underpinnings are allowed enough space and time to become recognizable. "That Old Outlaw" is a marble mouthed romp through Let It Bleed-era Stones-iness; it even has a harmonica solo. "Gun to My Head," crashes and roars over three-based blues progressions, strung out and ampíd up, but unmistakably, moodily traditional.

And decadent. Satan's Little Pet Pig is about what all great rock and roll records are about Ė sex and boredom, drugs and bad intentions. It's a vacation from every convention that holds you down, and a rebel yell screamed for when you can't afford to do it yourself. Who cares if the songs are so noisily recorded that you can't hear the words? You can just barely make out Clarke screeching out, "I'm a tomcat, baby / and I'm looking for a fight," near the end, and that's pretty much all you need to know.

By Jennifer Kelly

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