RETRO: Clockhammer "Nullify" Mp3

Posted May 12th, 2007 by Eric Greenwood · 5 Comments

As a staple on WRVU- Vanderbilt’s college radio station, Clockhammer was one of my favorite bands in high school. They were local to Nashville, Tennessee but got signed to First Warning records, which was a subsidiary of BMG, making them label-mates with bands like The Wedding Present. Success seemed imminent.

Clockhammer played an early version of proto-math-rock with such extreme dynamics that it confused many potential fans but made diehard fanatics out of most. Songs would blast from hardcore punk to intricate jazz to metal to blues on dime-stop turns, and Byron Bailey’s indecipherable lyrics were the spawn of a truly schizophrenic voice. The musicianship was unquestionably advanced compared to many of its peers and influences (Fugazi, fIREHOSE, Joy Division), and Clockhammer seemed to be on the cusp of something truly groundbreaking.

Nirvana exploded in the midst of Clockhammer’s ascent, which made the spotlight shining on the trio much brighter, as its potential seemed even more pronounced. But in-band fighting over songwriting credits unraveled the group, and when its second album, Klinefelter, was released in the spring of 1992, guitarist/vocalist Byron Bailey literally disappeared.

It was a ridiculously selfish move and destroyed the band’s chances of breaking on a larger level. Drummer Ken Coomer eventually went on to help found Wilco (he was fired right before the band filmed I am Trying to Break Your Heart), while bassist Matt Swanson performed on several My Dad is Dead records. Bailey eventually resurfaced a few years later with a new Clockhammer line-up to release So Much for You on the German label, Houses in Motion. But it wasn’t even close to the original and failed to make any dent whatsoever.

Here’s “Nullify” off Klinefelter:

Clockhammer – “Nullify” mp3

Tags: mp3

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 bluesteye // Jun 24, 2007 at 11:40 am

    Clockhammer was never stale. It’s diversity was way ahead of its time. I love music that dares to be different and it was. I agree with most of your glowing review, but there are many sides to a story and I’m not sure if pinning the break-up on Bailey is fair. Oh yeah, he is a fabulous guitar player, you are right about that.

  • 2 JP // Sep 26, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    Yeah,

    I was another Clockhammer devotee in the 80s. They originally were a foursome, two guitars including Bailey’s cousin, who went back to Virginia, I seem to remember, giving up the music. Those early demos/concerts were some of the most ass-kicking music I have ever heard, reigning in technique and hence much less infected by the Nashville hyper-technical thing. Two maniac guitar players with Jaguars and GREAT songs. Whatever happened to Clockhammer, what’s certain is that they were eccentric people and the fact that it fell apart seemed very natural, like all the other damaged people and bands that fell apart in Nashville back in those days. If I could only find that tape again…devastating stuff.

  • 3 Marty // Sep 27, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Fan from the moment I stumbled across “Greying Out” on a free label sampler cassette circa 1991(?), but living in a cultural vaccuum out on Long Island, New York I never got to see them live (hell, I’ve never physically run into another ‘hammer fan)… ‘Klinefelter’ is a masterpiece. A 45 minute Bailey-songs-only redux of ‘So Much for You’ is solid, if not groundbreaking. Over the years I have kept hoping that Byron would turn back up in a new band or as a solo act, but he seems to have vanished from the scene completely. Any idea of what became of him?

  • 4 Eric Greenwood // Sep 27, 2007 at 10:40 am

    None. I’m from Nashville, and I even spoke with original drummer Ken Coomer one time about Bailey. He knew of the ‘So Much for You’ version of Clockhammer, calling it something like “Kansas-lite.” I know that incarnation of the band played a few live dates in the US, but after that I have no idea what happened to Bailey.

  • 5 Marty // Oct 2, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Oh well , time to file a missing persons report… Quick postscript: A few years back I was in Tucson and I caught a live performance of former Tsunami frontwoman Jenny Toomey… Chatted with her briefly after the show & even saw her & her band at a bar shortly thereafter… failing to realize that her bass player was Matt Swanson; my friend pointed it out to me the next day… A missed opportunity to shake hands with a musical hero, and of course to ask if *he* maybe knew what became of Bailey. Oh well.