The Clay People

The Clay People

Slipdisc / Mercury Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When I first heard New York-based The Clay People in a label showcase a few months ago, I wondered if I was in the right club. Sandwiched in between acts that had more than some leanings towards industrial was this intense hard rock band that caused more than a few jaws to drop. In my scribbled notes from that evening, I called them "hard rock in the Pantera vein."

Their recent self-titled release (their fifth album, and first for Slipdisc) partially proves me wrong; the lyrical shouting is minimized, and the end result is some solid hard rock that isn't afraid to take a bend towards a softer edge.

Vocalist Dan Neet leads the band through eleven tracks that challenge the listener from almost every angle imaginable. The dual guitar work of Brian McGarvey and Mike Guzzardi does a Texas one-two on your eardrums, resulting in some of the most pleasurable pain you'll ever experience. Bassist Dan Walsh acts as a solid anchor for the other axemen, while drummer Dan Dinsmore shows he knows his way around the trap kit quite well; some of his fills were very impressive.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The lead-off single, "Awake," helps me maintain my belief in the Pantera-like aspects of the band; Neet goes from a more gentle vocal to an ear-piercing screech of the chorus that serves as an audio alarm clock for any listener who wasn't paying close attention. The track is a logical, even perfect, choice for the first single, and demonstrates the power that The Clay People have right off the bat.

However, if all you think this band is about is screaming, then keep listening, Dr. Livingston, 'cause you have a lot more discovery to do. Tracks like "Calling Spaceship: Damien Grief" and "Car Bomb" continue their demonstrations of the band's prowess, while pushing the more melodic side of The Clay People's music and lyrics. "Car Bomb" is a track I remember as being rather intense in concert; this version caught me a bit off guard with Neet's clear-as-a-bell vocals. (In fact, the clarity of the vocals is something that struck me throughout this album; I'm sure a good portion of the credit goes to producer Neil Kernon.) "Who Am I?", the closing track of The Clay People, starts off with a killer guitar riff and works around it for the entire song, creating what could logically be the next single.

However, The Clay People is an album not afraid to show a softer side, which comes in the guise of songs like "Ghostwishing". Tracks like these are pleasant surprises that are scattered in the album - almost as if they were designed to help give your ears and brain a break.

The downside to The Clay People's musical attack is that it starts to get old the further you get into the album - as a result, you might find your mind drifting during tracks like "Raygun Girls" and "Dying To Be You". It took me several tries to get through this disc - though once I did, I found the effort was well worth the time. Despite the fact that The Clay People are veterans of the scene, I'm willing to cut them some slack, as this lineup is still a rather new one for the band. I think once they gel together a little more, the blemishes of this album will disappear.

The Clay People could be called a sleeper hit of 1998 - if we're not careful, it could burst through big-time on both alternative and hard rock outlets. Here's hoping at least one side gives them the chance... this album proves they've earned it, though they're not at the finish line quite yet.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Slipdisc / Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.