The Ohio-based band Craw made four albums between 1993 and 2002. The first three—their 1993 self-titled debut, 1994’s Lost Nation Road, and 1997’s Map, Monitor, Surge—all went out of print as quickly as they appeared, and have never been reissued since. But now, writer (and occasional BA contributor) Hank Shteamer and Northern Spy Records are teaming up to put these albums on deluxe double vinyl in a six-disc box, accompanied by a deluxe photo book. This set will be funded by a Kickstarter campaign that runs until June 2.
Craw are a fascinating band. They evolved significantly from album to album. On the debut, their music has the churning aggression of fellow mid ’90s middle American acts like the Jesus Lizard or Cows, with occasional elements of grunge worked into the corners and frontman Joe McTighe howling and shrieking like a hardcore vocalist having a nervous breakdown. On Lost Nation Road, things got weirder; a new bassist, Zak Dieringer, tightens things up slightly, while retaining the hammer-to-the-forehead intensity of earlier work and making room for unexpected sounds, like the skronky saxophones heard on “Botulism, Cholera + Tarik” and “All This Has Made Me.” Map, Monitor, Surge saw another new drummer enter the rotation, this time Will Scharf, who’d later join Keelhaul. It was a much weirder album—it included a three-part suite of one-minute tracks, and ended with a 12-minute epic, “Days in the Gutter/Nights in the Gutter,” that simmers and erupts, only to subside again, as the drums pound endlessly on.
These albums definitely arise out of a time and place; there were a lot of bands making pounding, noisy, complex rock at this time, particularly in the Midwest. But Craw had a few extra things on their side—McTighe’s vocals first and foremost, but also their series of excellent, hard-driving drummers, and their ability to harness subtlety and silence as ably as volume and aggression. Having Steve Albini in the booth for their first two albums, and as a co-engineer on their third, helped a lot too. The sound is full but spacious, and never oppressive, no matter how hard the band is slamming home the riffs at any given moment. These are definitely albums worthy of (re)discovery, and, assuming the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, they’ll be reissued digitally as well as in the deluxe LP box. So if you’re a fan of this kind of music, consider donating.
Here’s an exclusive premiere—three live tracks from 1995 (“Cobray to the North,” from Craw, and “Strongest Human Bond” and “Feesh Crik” from Lost Nation Road):