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Claw Hammer formed in 1986 in Long Beach, California; its members were from several neighboring municipalities. Their name was a reference from a Captain Beefheart song and his erratic blues influence on their music remained evident even after they signed to major label Interscope in the late 1990's. The group originally released a cassette and some small-issue EPs and singles in the late 80's before signing to Sympathy for the Record Industry, who released their debut LP, an eponymous effort, in 1990. Another EP and two full-lengths followed on Sympathy; the group won acclaim for its live shows before signing to Epitaph Records for their 1993 release, Pablum. In 1994, Claw Hammer performed as the backing band on MC5 member Wayne Kramer's debut Epitaph release, The Hard Stuff. Despite a lack of radio format conforming sounds, the brash and noisy songsmiths jumped to major label Interscope, and released two more LPs, 1995's Thank the Holder Uppers and the last being 1997's Hold Your Tongue (and Say Apple). The group played live until 2000.

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