The bizarro INFLATABLE BOY CLAMS double 45 from 1981 is coming out via reissue on Superior Viaduct in about a month. Dangerous Minds did a piece on them in anticipatory celebration.

This record was a popular one on the college station I listened to in my youth. Here’s what I wrote about it on Agony Shorthand nine years ago:


Yesterday mention was made on this site of the ocean of bizarro, shoestring-budget obscurities pouring out of the Anglophilic countries circa 1978-82, many of which are slowly being brought back to consciousness thanks to mp3 blogs, tribute sites and comps like Hyped2Death’s MESSTHETICS and HOMEWORK series. One such record I remember quite well, but never owned until I found this web site & scooped up all five tracks, was the darkly weird INFLATABLE BOY CLAMS 2×45. 

KFJC, my teenage radio station of choice, used to play the novelty track “I’m Sorry” from this set all the friggin’ time, and the first time I heard it, it was my favorite song the whole rest of the day. Then I’d hear it three more times a day & the sheen wore off fast – and until last week, I hadn’t heard it in over 20 years (!). “Skeletons” sounds like the rarely-glimpsed side of 45 GRAVE that was keyboard-heavy & proficient in dark, campy cabaret rock. It’s a little goofy, but jarring and endearing nonetheless.

The band were part of the small scene that sprung up around San Francisco’s Club Foot circa 1980-81, a scene that existed on the fringe of the far more extreme FACTRIX/MONTE CAZAZZA/SRL stuff that was big in play at the time & was certainly a ways off from FLIPPER, THE LEWD and their misanthropic ilk. If they’d been from LA, their pals would likely have been the LAFMS crew like MONITOR and BPEOPLE. I’ve never heard PINK SECTION (to my knowledge), but two members of that band were in the Clams as well. Lots more can be learned at the aforementioned Inflatable Boy Clams tribute site. They must have been together only long enough to record this one session, because a band with four females making their own off-beat, deliberately tuneless racket should have been a hot enough property for at least a Subterranean or even a Rough Trade record deal, wouldn’t you think? The more I listen to these tracks, the more they transcend the kitschy novelty aspect, and head toward something a little more timeless and interesting. Let’s reevaluate this thing again a few years from now, what do you say?


Back in the early 80s I’d hear the storming, shrieking “Caucasian Guilt” by San Francisco minimalist art-punk duo NOH MERCY on KFJC, and it would scare the hell out of me. “I didn’t put no JAP in a CAMP!!!”. An enigmatic song and band to say the least, I’d only been able to gather bits & pieces about them over the years. They were a 2-female duo, and two of their tracks were put on one of the Earcom 7"EP comps put out by Fast Records in the UK. I believe there’s a lone photo of them in the “Hardcore California” book which I read and read again at least 1,000 times in the 1980s. Found a photo or two on internet message boards nearly 10 years ago when I was writing something about Noh Mercy for my original music blog Agony Shorthand. That’s about it.

Now there’s this. A complete-works CD, all from 1979 – ten studio songs, plus four August 1979 live tracks from the Catalyst in Santa Cruz (which is still there, hosting shows to this day). I bought a copy, and immersed myself in it this past week. While not an “easy listen”, its sharp-edged experimentation marks it as something weird and wholly original & of its time.

The San Francisco of 1979 wasn’t just slamtastic punk rock bands – there was a dark, often synth-laden underground both on the Ralph Records side of the fence (Residents, Tuxedomoon) and more punk-friendly acts like Chrome, Factrix and many others. I fit Noh Mercy in with the latter, along with gay/political cabaret a la The Cockettes, spoken word attack-acts, revolutionary pre-Reagan-era doomsday rhetoric, and a general theater of the absurd. 

With only two women playing, one of whom (Esmerelda) who just loses herself in her vocals, it’s bound to be pretty minimal. Most are just drums and vocals; some guitar scrape and vocals; a couple are analog synth & vocals. All are biting, angry and a bit obtuse. The liner notes confirm art-drenched damaged souls at the helm; women who came to San Francisco as an escape from a previous life and found it to be a place where they could be whatever they wanted to be, and even find an audience for it. Great stuff. I’m posting “Pay The Devil” from the CD here.