February 20, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Hammerbox

In every good mod collection there are decidely non-mod additions. Hammerbox is one of those in my collection. Hammerbox is without a doubt the least mod band I'll ever feature on this site. And, they're also one of the bands that evokes the most mod sort of sensibilities, and embraces the core mod influences in a way that many so-called mod bands never do. So, hmmm. How to explain Hammerbox? You can't really explain them. The best you can do is tell people about them and know that those who didn't see them will never understand.

Maybe it's because I was in Seattle in the heyday of the great grunge debacle when anybody who could vomit outside a club was offered a record contract, or because I just like good music. Either way, I have a thing for Seattle's most underrated, least appreciated, and never acclaimed band. Hammerbox.

While one after another we watched Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden, Nirvana, 7 Year Bitch, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Temple of the Dog and too many more to be mentioned move onto the national stage, everyone wondered what the hell happened to Hammerbox. In 1990 if you owned your own instrument you could get a record contract as a grunge act. Unless you were Hammerbox. They were always the next big thing to come from the Jet City. And the next. And the next. And so on.

They were the Doors of the Seattle scene, they were Seattle's version of X, they were the underground, bluesy, poets of the local scene. They incorporated all the elements that made the Seattle sound popular in the early 90s -- edgy punk, heavy metal-bluesy garage rock, and strangely, a pop sensibility that made this grating, aggressive music relevant to FM listeners from Aberdeen to Galveston to Hackensack. Fronted by the stunning vocals of Carrie Akre, the band seemed destined to hit it big. But they never did. Maybe there were at times too bluesy, or simply not grungy enough. Who knows. For whatever reason the big boys never came calling, and the national stage never got set.

Never the less they had something that attracted even then aging mods like myself to their shows. They had it, whatever it is. It's like obscenity, I know it when it see it. And though everyone else in the world missed it, us Seattlites had it good for a few years when the band headlined all the worst bars in town like the OK Hotel playing originals such as "When 3 is 2," "Bred," "Numb," "Size of the World" and the very jazzy and bluesy song here "Under the Moon". They only did two covers that I know of, and killed with both of them: Cheap Trick's "Surrender" and "Van Halen's" Ain't Talkin' About Love. Both of which caused explosions in the audience when belted forth.

Hammerbox -- Under The Moon

Hammerbox -- Size of the World