Back in the late 80s and early 90s, the California Bay Area was home to a budding and intimate punk rock scene composed of bands such as AFI, Green Day, Rancid, Samiam, and many others. While many of these bands went on to become massively successful, Samiam more or less remained an obscure act. Like their peers Green Day, Samiam traded in a more raw punk sound for a slightly more polished one on their 1994 major label debut. Samiam’s record Clumsy
didn’t do so well. As a result of their lacking success, they were dropped by Atlantic not long after and would never again release an album on a major label.
This is a huge shame, because Clumsy
is an absolutely excellent record, and good enough that it easily could have been as influential or well known as Dookie
. Samiam have a very interesting sound which is comfortingly familiar, yet also unique. Previously a punk rock act, Clumsy
retained some of that sound, but it also strewed toward alt rock, emo, and grunge. Vocalist Jason Beebout’s voice is pretty out of the ordinary for a band like this. It may be described as “big voiced”, and he wouldn’t sound out of place in a post-grunge act like Creed or Live. Like Green Day with Dookie
, this could be described as an attempt to appeal to a wider audience by broadening the band’s sound, but in this case the process didn’t hurt Samiam at all, as this album is hardly ever homogeneous or generic. Clumsy
retains Samiam’s idiosyncratic charm while also doubling as a killer and easy to get into alt rock record.
comes out with guns blazing right off the bat with its first three songs, all of which could have achieved massive airplay. “As We’re Told” is a rousing, energetic and very fitting opening track, and “Capsized” possesses a loud/soft dynamic not unlike something off Dookie
. “Stepson” is perhaps the best song here, with a heavy, shoegazey lead riff that sounds like it was lifted straight from Siamese Dream
. This track in particular should have ignited the airwaves. The lyrical content may have prevented that from happening though, as its chief refrain is “burning the house down” and the song’s subject matter (child abuse) is a bit heavy for such an accessible and anthemic piece. Aside from the singles, my personal favorite song here is “Tag Along.” The verses are a bit haunting and oddly reminiscent of Nirvana or Alice in Chains, but the chorus is huge and perhaps the best moment on the entire record, as Jason Beebout exclaims, “She’s too young for that. She don’t know, don’t know, don’t know not yet.” “”Tag Along” is the one that will really want to make you sing along in unison. Aside from “Mud Hill” on 2000′s Astray
, it’s probably the most emotional and epic-sounding song the band has ever done. Clumsy
also contains its fair share of killer bass lines, with ”No Size That Small” in particular recalling Green Day with its pounding and addictive bass driven verses. The album also has more than a few guitar solos, such as in “Bad Day,” and the solos are generally melodic and quite memorable.
marks the first time that Samiam really produced a consistently excellent record. There’s hardly any filler to be found here, and many of the songs here are absolutely anthemic and will find themselves stuck in your head for days after you hear them, something that wasn’t quite the case with previous records like Billy
. It isn’t their best record (that would be Astray
), but it’s an incredibly solid emo/alt-rock album which fits right in with the musical landscape of the mid-90s. It’s definitely worthy of at least a few listens.