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: