a passable parting shot

The Hammerheads (Hammerheads)
The Hammerheads

By Mark Clark

The Hammerheads have broken up, passed on to that Never Never Land bands go when they disintegrate before their prime. In its wake, the group leaves only memories of many fine concerts and a self-titled disc, recorded live in Indianapolis in May, 1991.

The disc is a mixed blessing. it fails to capture all the fire of the band in person -- and catches singer Jimi V in less than historic form -- but records for posterity some of the band's best tunes. It would have been tragic to lose "Comin' to You," "My Pride and Joy" and "Jealous Guy," for example.

By all rights, this album should have provided the band's big break. Enough promise is displayed here to turn the heads of big-label A&R people. Matt Thompson (drums) and Eric Kephart (bass) were a fanny-jarring rhythm section. Guitarist Greg Foresman, in terrific form here, is destined for fame -- if not with this band, then perhaps with his next. And V, while he's sounded more consistent, has flashes of brilliance. His missteps are nothing that couldn't be smoothed over by any big-time producer worth his salt.

As a unit, the band sounds terrific -- and only got better in the 18 months since this album was taped. The Hammerheads grew much more comfortable with softer tunes like "Run to Her" and "Soul Connection," and only honed their mastery of fast and funky fodder like "Don't Let It Slip Away."

But the album can serve as merely a souvenir, not a springboard, at this stage.

As a momento, The Hammerheads is welcome, though not entirely satisfying. "My Pride and Joy" is terrific, but "Jealous Guy" certainly has sounded better. This is a disc that will leave fans mumbling, "If only the band had recorded the album on a more inspired evening..." But then, the group has left fans with plenty of "if onlys."