Clutch are one of the most consistent and hard working bands in rock and roll. The Maryland Stoner Rock outfit released their thirteenth full-length studio album, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach, in 2022. It was produced by Tom Dalgety (Ghost, Royal Blood, Pixies) and released on the band’s own Weathermaker Music.
I think its fair to say Clutch have never made a bad album, and although some albums are more popular than others, if you like Clutch you are probably in for the long haul, enjoying something off of each of their varied but always distinctly Clutch-sounding albums. Sunrise On Slaughter Beach is a great album. I mean, of course it is, it’s a Clutch album, that almost goes without saying, you know you are going to get a couple of songs you’ll remember for the rest of your life, a load of clever quirky memorable lyrics, some cool guitar/bass lines that get stuck in your head for weeks and exceptional drumming beyond all of their peers… but even for a Clutch album, and the inherent high standards that implies, this is a strong outing.
The first two singles from the record, “Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)” and “We Strive For Excellence” were so ridiculously strong, so profoundly catchy, so superbly satisfying and intensely memorable that I was convinced this would be in the top their of their discography before it was even released. For weeks (or is it months, my memory is failing) I’ve been listening to those songs multiple times daily, and got into a ritual of not getting out of bed until I’d heard them. With songs this strong, I was guaranteed to love the album, and sort of envisioned another Earth Rocker / Psychic Warfare style all killer, no filler, heads down, hyper focused hard rocking affair.
Their previous album, The Book Of Bad Decisions, was also excellent, but if there was one criticism to be laid at it, this would be that it was perhaps a bit too long and one or two songs could be cut to make it more streamlined. ‘Slaughter Beach seems aware of this, and clocks in at barely half an hour long, with songs that are concise, succinct and have not an ounce of fat on them. Contrary to my initial expectations however, it isn’t the heads don’t pedal to the metal rager I thought it would be, but rather is arguably their most diverse and exploratory album in a decade and a half, although crucially, having learned the lessons from their focused period, this is not bloated, self indulgent or superfluous experimentation the way some critics of the second halves of their longer records might previously have accused them of, the album is a best of both worlds, allowing the band to stretch their wings and broaden their horizons without sacrificing the flow of the album, the efficiency of the song writing or the patience of the more sober listeners. There are some really cool touches, such as soul singer backing vocals, theremin, vibraphone. However, its still just half an hour of the utmost, cleverly crafted, high-quality bangers, rather than the loosey-goosey jamming of say, Jam Room.
There are only nine songs, so its hard to sit here and pick out highlights, as there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t want to hear live or have in a compilation (in fact, on a recent livestream at time of writing, they played every single song from it live, amongst classics from various eras of the band’s history, and it all fit so well), but if forced to pick some stand-out tracks to recommend to new commers, the first three singles are all utterly essential for all new Clutch fans forevermore. A clever blade-runner and pandemic-conspiracy inspired utter fist pumping banger, a truly triumphant tale of young kids building a bike ramp that sounds like the very best moments of the first three QOTSA albums filtered through Fu Manchu’s most catchy moments and Pure Rock Fury’s personality (the bass groove when the cowbell kicks in makes me grin like a schoolboy every time), and a groovey as hell Sabbathy stoner anthem title-track that educated me about horse-shoe crabs having blue blood overused by the pharmaceutical industry to the point of threatening extinction on the species.
Tales of D&D twelve-sided die and chaotic evil, or being accosted in space by an unknown menace to rumbling drums and expansive sounds almost match this for quality, as do ghost and witchcraft stories that are more moody and diverse, but the other real highlight for me is the enormously catchy “Three Golden Horns” with its almost Thin-Lizzy-esque lyrical story telling and super catchy “Jazz Music Corrupts The Youth” chorus. The album ends on a more sombre note, about previous heroes/legends being cast aside as criminals/tyrants by future generations that seems to subtly reference recent turning in political tides towards previously lauded forefathers who are now viewed less favourably due to their problematic deeds, with an almost folky slow drum beat and ghostly guitar lines that sound like the emotional climax of a movie.
This is an album I’ve been listening to on repeat, listening to every day since its release at time of writing, and which I will absolutely rinse for the next few years, if not forever. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Just put it on, get into the vibe, and repeat until in love with it. More highly recommended than water or oxygen!
This list feature is based on my subjective personal opinion, not fan consensus or journalistic research. They are ranked from best to worst, best being simply “my own favourite” and worst being “the one I personally like the least.” I know it is customary to rank from worst to best, but I prefer to lead with the positive. Check out the rankings home page for more albums-ranked lists.
Today, I’ll be discussing the studio albums from the one of a kind, eccentric and diverse Maryland Rock band, Clutch.
1. Clutch – Earth Rocker (2013) – This is one of those albums like Dr. Feelgood or Permanent Vacation where it seems like someone sat the band down, sobered them up, got them into a laser-beam focus, and said “ok, you have to make the biggest album of your career now.” Its one of those career defining albums like Back In Black, or British Steel or The Black Album where it feels like the band were making a concerted effort to “step up.” Its one of those albums like “Paranoid” where the album plays more like a greatest hits compilation than a single album and almost every song could have been a hit. Its one of those albums like Formation Of Damnation or Hordes Of Chaos that come later in the band’s career and somehow set a new standard for excellence and start a new golden age for the band.
Its all of those things and more. It’s the biggest, boldest, liveliest, punchiest record of the band’s career; with a level of quality control, focus and singular-vision that makes this something truly rare, truly special….a perfect record! It’s the band’s supercharged, hyper-focused, ultra-consistent, perfect-all-the-way-through, “THIS.IS.CLUTCH.” defining statement.
The album just explodes out of the speakers, crackling with life, bursting with colour, oozing personality, throwing gem after gem after gem at you and never letting up. “Coming at you in all 3-Ds.” Its larger than life, its almost too good to be true. Its Earth Rocker, motherfucker! Blurgh-haw-hah-ha-ha-ha-ha.
Best songs: “Earth Rocker,” “Cyborg Bete,” “Crucial Velocity” & “Unto The Breach.”
2. Clutch – Blast Tyrant (2004) – This thing could be described as “Personality, the album.” This record is the refinement, crystallisation and then expansion of everything the band had been building up to until this point. This album forever set Clutch aside from the pack. All the way up until Earth Rocker (almost a decade) this must have been their Ace Of Spades type “cannot escape the shadow” album.
This album is like a colourful alternate reality dreamworld. Lots of little Funk, Soul, Gospel, Gogo, Southern Rock and Blues tinges mix with a bombastic foundation of high energy Hard Rock, filtered through boundless creativity in an effortless air of cool. The band clearly tapped into an embarrassment-of-riches vein from the mine of earworm choruses, toe-tapping beats and make-you-smile riffs n’ basslines. Every musician is like the best musician in any other band.
Add to that an outrageously good opening run of six classics, some diversity with a smoky ballad, an instrumental and some virtuosic jamming. Its packaged up in bizarre memorable artwork and a gorgeous clear vibrant production job… mix it all up and you’ve got a straight up classic album on your hands.
Frontman Neil Fallon also seemed to take this moment to ascend from cool singer with quirky lyrics into a God-tier contender for best rock frontman in history. If this guy had been around in the ’60s or ’70s when the history books were still unwritten he would no doubt be up there in the top-10 with the likes of any icon you dare to name. Its like he did some soul searching, figured out what his “best qualities” were, then just made his whole being the best bits, and then upped his game tenfold again! Remember the idea of how Dimebag decided to make every riff “the money riff”? Here its like Neil decided to make every verse, chorus and bridge the vocal equivalent of “the money riff.”
As if all that if that wasn’t enough…. they then also managed to write “The Mob Goes Wild” …which for my money is unarguably one of the best songs in human history. If you don’t love that song, you are no friend of mine! The fact that it isn’t talked about daily in the same breath as “Smoke On The Water,” “Whole Lotta Love” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” is nothing short of a crying shame.
Best songs: “The Mob Goes Wild,” “Subtle Hustle” “The Profits Of Doom” & “The Regulator.”
3. Clutch – Clutch (1995) – The band’s “real” debut in the eyes of many, and for many their crowning achievement. Self-titled for a reason. This is one superb set of songs let me tell you and a real genre-classic for the Stoner Rock scene. (I mean Clutch are a weird, unique outlier for the scene and more than just Stoner Rock, but its definitely a part of the sound, particularly on this record).
It was great enough for them to play it in its entirety for a live album, and they have always played a hell of a lot of it live over the years.
This is such a humongous step up from Speedway’ and the early EPs. The same DNA is there, but the results are very different. For example, the bounce of ‘Marcus can be heard updated on “Animal Farm,’ the groove of “El Jefe” can be heard evolved on “Tight Like That.” The clever lyrics and badass attitude of “12 Oz Epilogue” and ‘Monster Trucks can be heard evolved on, well… all over this album. This album takes the best most charasmatic and memorable moments of the last a builds a whole album out of the cream of the crop.
If you have this as your own number-one in your own rankings, I’d totally get it. The only reasons I can think of to knock it down lower are personal preference issues, and just because they’ve released better stuff since. If I was to try and justify it not being first like so many online Clutch rankings would have it, all I can come up with is that the production is a bit rough, the vocals are a bit unrefined, the last few songs could have been cut for a tighter experience… but all that is just nitpicking and I love this record. At the end of the day, it does have some of the band’s finest tracks, is a fan-favourite and really helped define who and what Clutch are, and it is chocked to the brim with charm.
Best songs: “Texan Book Of The Dead,” “Escape From The Prison Planet” & “Animal Farm.”
4. Clutch – The Book Of Bad Decisions (2018) – The band’s newest album at time of writing, and the one that has grown on me the most over time. Every single time I listen to this I like it more and more, and I liked it plenty when it was released. If you deleted tracks 2 and 3, I think you could even bump this album up another place, as it would then be close to perfect.
It almost goes without saying, since we are talking about Clutch, but this album is so big, fun, memorable, and full of personality, with such unique lyrics and charismatic vocals, immense drumming, and stick-in-your-head-for-weeks basslines & riffs.
How many bands twelve albums deep (and numerous EPs and compilations more) into their career are still putting out one of their best albums and seeming more relevant and exciting now than when they broke through? It’s a pretty exclusive club.
Imagine being decades into your career and still being able to knock out a song as memorable, powerful and immensely fun as “How To Shake Hands” …that’s almost unfair, leave some quality for the rest of the bands in the world! I never get tired of imagining President Fallon flying around in a UFO.
5. Clutch – Robot Hive/Exodus (2005) – Blast Tyrant was like their equivalent of coming out with The Blackening years after Burn My Eyes. It can’t have been easy following that up. No matter what you do it won’t have quite the same impact for most fans.
Despite gigantic shoes to fill, Robot Hive’ is a superb follow-up and near as good. Its more diverse, more eclectic and tries more things, and sacrifices a little bit of focus for variety, but it is certainly worth it and much more hit than miss. Bazumph.
I always think of this and Blast Tyrant as a set, and often don’t listen to one without the other, so it is purely academic ranking them or having one higher or lower than the other. You need to buy both, it’s as simple as that.
Best songs: “Burning Beard,” “Circus Maximus” & “The Incomparable Mr. Flannery.”
6. Clutch – Psychic Warfare (2015) – Like Robot Hive’ is the follow-up companion to Blast Tyrant’s excellence, so too is Psychic Warfare the worthy follow-up companion to Earth Rocker’s perfection. This album is pure class, the only reason it isn’t higher being it had to follow up a surprise world-beater. If this had have came out first and Earth Rocker never existed, then this would be talked about in much the same way as Earth Rocker is.
Certainly they were on a fine run on form, and you can take the albums from Earth Rocker onwards as a set, and it would be an absolutely fantastic set, a golden era. This is what the phrase “its like someone lit a fire under their ass” was made for. Few bands ever have (or ever will) released three such strong albums in succession. It goes against my catholic upbringing, I admit it, but I’m a sucker for this album!
Best songs: “Sucker For The Witch,” “A Quick Death In Texas” & “Your Love Is Incarceration.”
7. Clutch – Strange Cousins From The West (2009) – Most fans might have this one a bit lower in the rankings, but its one of my favourites, and I have an emotional attachment to it as it was the first “new” Clutch album in my time as a serious fan. ‘90s fans would probably want to slap me for having it above Elephant Riders, but hey, this is my list, make your own list if you want this lower. This album is the band’s blues-iest, roots-iest album to date, perhaps leaning hard in on the success of “Electric Worry” and doubling down on it.
It’s a far cry from the days of “Impetus” and “Pitchfork” style face-smashing, and instead sits in a “the world’s greatest bar band” territory. Its like John Bonham, Jimi Hendrix and a coked-up gospel preacher decided to play at your local blues bar and knock out some of the most good-time music they could. It also has fabulous, Monster-Magnet-quality, memorable, unique, quirky lyrics. Lyrics have always been a selling point for Clutch and I feel like this album has some of their absolute best.
This album is all about the feel. Its all about being in the pocket, in the groove, in the vibe. It’s the idea of Jam Room for the new millennium, but the execution is a thousand times better. If you dislike this, I have a hard time taking you seriously.
8. Clutch – The Elephant Riders (1998) – “Uneven” is a very harsh, pedantic and easily counterargued criticism for the album, but short of just having all albums be “joint first” and calling it a day, there has to be some way of differentiating the albums and ranking them…even if having this one lower than some of the other ones might be blasphemy to many fans.
It is painful to have this album so low, but we are into the ultimate “they’re always brilliant, how do I choose?” splitting hairs territory now. This album is an absolute classic of the subgenre, one of the best albums of the 1990s and contains some of my personal all-time favourite songs ever written by anyone.
In fact, if the whole album was as good as the highlights, this could have a shout for being one of the best albums of all time. Yes, I do like other records better, but I still consider this still “must-have,” and still recommend it to all fans no matter how casual.
Best songs: “The Elephant Riders,” “The Soap Makers” & “The Yeti.”
9. Clutch – From Beale Street To Oblivion (2007) – If any other similar band put this out, it would be the greatest achievement of their whole career. Sixty Watt Shaman, Five Horse Johnson and Monster Truck will never, ever release anything even close to this good, so the fact that it is so low down on this list makes me feel very conflicted.
An album with an opening three song run as good as this, or a moment as joyous and infectiously mood-lifting as “Electric Worry” can’t honestly be ever considered one of a band’s “lesser” albums can it? Well that’s just testament to how ridiculously good Clutch are.
Sometimes I will hear people talk negatively about this album and it just seems offensive to me. If this was a one-off album by a band that broke up afterwards, it would be such a beloved cult classic. Ok, its their ninth best album, but its better than 90% of the albums in whole subgenre.
Best songs: “You Can’t Stop Progress,” “Power Player” & “The Devil & Me.”
10. Clutch – Pure Rock Fury (2001) – This album was a bit of a hit, due in no small part to the rap-rock satire of its most famous track. It also contains the title track that became the does-what-it-say-on-the-tin badge that all fans and journalists use to describe the band with when they go a bit harder and faster. It is very well liked by fans of a certain vintage. It is however, just a bit “different.”
A lot of this comes down to the fact that it has a very different production for the band, seemingly going for the opposite of their loose, groovey Stoner Rock stylings of their previous three albums and attempting something more fitting in with modern Metal productions of the era. The results are a tighter, stiffer sound than any other Clutch record before or since.
Musically, this is also a transitional album that doesn’t fit neatly into any era of the band’s varied discography. It is heavy in places and dark at times, but it isn’t the punishing bruising hardcore dirge of the early days, it isn’t the funky stoner mashup of the preceding albums or the unique career defining new direction of the albums that follow it. It is an island. Its still 100% Clutch; the musicianship, the exploration, the blue-collar vibes, the wit and humour of the lyrics, the variety and eccentricity of the vocals… and yet it is also kind of nothing like they’ve done before or since at the same time. Unique.
If you check out the Live At The Googolplex live album, these songs sound much more like Elephant Riders/Self-Titled era songs live, stripped of that tight stiff production, and similarly, if you look at the demo version of “Sinkemlow” on the 2004-reissue of Jam Room, you can really get an idea of what a difference the producers (the pseudonymed combo of “Uncle Punchy” and “Machine”) made here.
All talk of production jobs and stylistic directions aside though, this is a solid collection of good songs, with some really high highlights that make the overall package even better.
Best songs: “Pure Rock Fury,” “Red Horse Rainbow” & “Careful With That Mic.”
11. Clutch – Jam Room (1999) – The band’s “we’re sick of record label disappointment, let’s just jam in a garage and have a good time” type album. It is a lot looser, more “live” sounding, freer and “jam”-feeling than any of the albums that preceded it (and certainly the one that followed it).
The band weren’t trying to write hits, the band weren’t trying to win over legions of new fans, the band weren’t trying to make a definitive magnum opus, this is just four dudes knocking out some music. For what it is, Jam Room is a complete success.
The only reason it is so low on the list is that Clutch are one of the best bands to ever pick up instruments and this album isn’t as good as their usual output by comparison. It’s a deliberately low effort, low brainpower, unrefined version of the band, and gloriously so, but the fact remains, they’ve done better.
Definitely not “skip it” but don’t let it be your first Clutch album either, wait until there’s almost nothing else you haven’t tried before giving it a go.
Best songs: “Raised By Horses” “Big Fat Big” & “Who Want’s To Rock?”
12. Clutch – Slow Hole To China (2003) – This list doesn’t cover some of the band’s catalogue, such as the various early EPs or reissues and compilations thereof, the mid career Basket Of Eggs EP, various live albums, the Weathermaker Vault series, or spin off material like The Bakerton Group.
However; there is one non-studio-album release I felt needed to be included – the B-Sides album, Slow Hole To China. Slow Hole’ is sequenced and arranged like a real album, features many fan favourites that the band still play live and have been on live albums and generally, compared to other bands this B-Sides compilation is not just random loser-material for superfans only, but rather an “essential album” for all but the most casual of fans. Ok, its not Earth Rocker, Blast Tyrant or The Self-Titled… but it is worth your time.
Best songs: “Hoodoo Operator,” “Willie Nelson” & “Easy Breeze.”
13. Clutch – Transnational Speadway League’ (1993) – The band’s debut album is stylistically quite different than most people’s idea of the Clutch sound. When I first got into the band, I didn’t like this album at all and have very-gradually warmed to it over the years. When you hear songs from it live in amongst songs from Elephant Riders or The Self-Titled you sort of “get it” a bit more, and because the music is pretty dense, thick and sludgy it takes a lot of repeat listens for it to sink in.
It’s the band’s heaviest, nastiest, most aggressive album to date (all usually things that make an album my favourite) and some of the band’s trademark wit, humour and inventive lyrics/vocals are starting to come through, but the reason this album sits in last place is that only about half the songs are what I’d describe as “good” and only about a quarter of them are what I’d describe as “fun” so basically, I usually listen to the very good band Clutch and have a fun time, but when I listen to this album all the way through in one sitting, I’m only getting that part of the time. Instantaneous this is not, but that doesn’t mean it is devoid of quality. For collectors.
Best songs: “A Shogun Named Marcus,” “El Jeffe Speaks” & “Walking In The Great Shining Path Of Monster Trucks.”
I went to go see Clutch live at Cardiff Great Hall Sunday 16th
June 2019. It was my first concert since the birth of my son, I didn’t want to
be away from him too long, so skipped the opening act and got their late.
The support band I did manage to see was Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons; a band with Phil Campbell from Motorhead and three of his sons (and then a singer). They were quite decent, playing mixed tempo rock songs. A few speedy numbers, a few mid-paced rockers and one fun slow song with a stoner rock vibe. They also covered ‘Born To Raise Hell’ and ‘Ace Of Spades.’ This marks the second time I’ve seen a Motorhead member play Ace Of Spades with a different band (I saw Fast Eddie Clarke supporting Saxon previously). I kind of feel bad but like when Diamond Head played ‘Am I Evil?’ versus new songs, the audience reaction was so much more enthusiastic for the Motorhead tunes versus the origional tunes, as was my own. Not being disrespectful, but Motohead tunes are Motorhead tunes. Still, I liked their own material fair enough too, it was a fun warm up and I don’t have anything to say about the band. I feel they would really suit touring with Orange Goblin.
Usually at a gig in the long wait between bands I have
no-one to talk to, but this time my brother wanted to see Clutch too, so I had
someone to speculate on setlists with a discuss the new album and favourite
songs with during the wait.
Because its Clutch, not someone violent and heavy, I decided
to stay at the back and just nod along having a good time rather than get into
the thick of it. This venue is good in that you can see the band just as well
from the back wall behind the sound desk as you can in the middle of the room. I
did the same thing for Mastodon the first time I was at this venue, just sit
back and watch the band without getting too sweaty.
Clutch are one of those bands that literally do not play the same set two nights in the row, and any night you can hear different songs. Sometimes they even don’t play their most well known songs. Some days they play mostly new stuff, some times they play mostly old stuff, some times anything can happen. The setlist yesterday was an eclectic grab bag of all eras. They opened with a deep cut off their self titled ‘90s classic sophomore album. ‘Escape From The Prison Planet.’ They played a few tracks off their furious and outrageously fun modern album, Psychic Warfare, They played a respectable amount of material from their new album, they dropped in ‘Red Horse Rainbows’ from Pure Rock Fury for the first time since 2011, and even played some rare material like ‘Willie Nelson’ from their B Sides album and the really early track ‘Passive Restraints.’
Luckily, even amongst the eclecticism they got to play what
I feel is their most well known song (I may be wrong, they’re not exactly a one
hit wonder) ‘The Mob Goes Wild’ which is one of my favourite songs by anyone,
ever, of all time. Seeing it live is not a guarantee. Its not like Metallica
and Enter Sandman where you know its going to be there, so it was very fun to
get to see it once again. Also; they played my favourite song from the new
album, the outrageously fun ‘How To Shake Hands.’ My throat is still sore from
how loud I sang along to ‘’First thing that I’m gonna do is go for a ride on a
UFO.’’ I am sure I’m not the only one either, the room utterly loved it, the energy
in the crowd was immense.
Other highlights include a bouncy rendition of ‘Ghoul Wrangler’
with its amusing pest-control-against-lawyers lyrics, (any band can make a lawyers-are-ghouls
comparison, but only Clutch are creative enough to have a snowy barn infested
with them as the owner gets his pest control business certified and bonded), an
interesting take on blues classic ‘Evil’ (also covered by Monster Magnet) and
the title track from Psychic Warfare, which I never previously realised was a
massive hit, but which the crowd utterly salivated over. The volume of the
singalongs was extra loud on that one!
The performance from the band was great. The solos and fills
were superb. The vocals so character-filled and colourful. The gesturing and
acting out of the lyrics live by singer Neil Fallon so enthusiastic and
powerful. The guitar tone was often better than the albums. The mix was pretty perfect with nothing inaudible
and nothing over-loud.
It was also just so fun to turn around every few seconds and
share with other fans some golden gem of a lyric, drum fill or guitar part. You’d
lock eyes with someone else air-guitaring the intro to ‘Electric Worry’ or air
drumming the floor tom parts to ‘Gimmie The Keys’ or singing with a grin on
their face countless memorable lyrics.
‘Just a glass of water and a ham sandwich,’ or ‘Everybody move to Canada,’ or ‘Weaponized Funk,’ or ‘He said I have seen them, I said ok its yours!’ and so on and so on. Clutch songs and albums are absolutely littered with enough memorable moments to fill a greatest hits album of most bands. Having a whole concert full of them is just joyous.
I had an uproariously good time, the band were fantastic, (and I didn’t have to travel half way around the country away from the baby). I could have happily wathced them play two more hours and still not heard all I wanted to hear from them. Brilliant band, brillaint night.
I cannot recommend seeing Clutch live highly enough. The band write superb music, they play it brilliantly live and the setlist is a roulette where anything can happen, but its always good.
Clutch at this point can unarguably be seen as something of an ‘old reliable’ at this point. It can be argued that the band just do not release bad albums these days and pretty much if you’ve liked any of the band’s recent albums, you are probably going to like this one.
That being said, they aren’t too repetitive and they do evolve over time and each album has its own identity and each cluster of albums has a certain flavour.
The last two albums; Earth Rocker and Psychic Warfare have been two of the bands hardest, most streamlined, direct albums to date and this time the band seem aware that this may not have been what fans of the older albums like Elephant Riders and the self-titled wanted, so this time around instead of battering you over the head with the hardest songs straight away, they open up with some more laid back Stoner Rock song. Its a bit more armchair than thrill-ride for the first three tracks, for those of you who were missing the band being more hazy. Combined with the less polished, looser production style (that hi-hat sound and muddier guitar tone has something in common with their Jam Room album to my ears).
That’s not to say it is a full return to the old days; its more of a balancing act between that, the recent material and also pushing new ground. There are a few tunes on here which retain the breakneck rocking and clear focus of Earthrocker; ‘Weird Times,’ ‘Paper & Strife’ and the Tony Iommi wetdream of ‘A Good Fire’ keep things direct and punchy.
In terms of newer ideas, ‘In Walks Barbarella’ sounds exactly like its most memorable lyric ”weaponised funk” – it is full of full on 1970s Starskey & Hutch sounding funk overtones.
Lyrically, the record is just as fun and interesting as ever, with some brilliant lines, such as in the pre-released ‘How To Shake Hands’ where Neil tells us that when he becomes president, ”First thing I’m gonna do is go for a ride on a UFO, put Jimmi Hendrix on the $20 bill and Bill Hicks on a 5-note,” as well as ‘Hot Bottom Feeder’ which is basically a recipe and when the Neighbours in ‘Paper & Strife’ are reportedly ”clearly raging communists.”
The last few albums have had man-of-the-match awards for drummer JP Gaster and Frontman Neil Fallon, but the real hero of this album is guitarist Tim Sult, who seems to on a mission to display as wide a range of styles of guitar solo as possible. There’s so many different vibes to his leads and solos on the record, from melodic to flashy to effects-laiden and everything in between.
Because Clutch are so consistent, it is really just a matter of personal taste which albums are your favourites. This album is no disappointment. For my tastes, its somewhere in the middle, better than for example Jam Room but not quite as transcendent as say, the last two albums, or the fan favourites like Blast Tyrant, but fairly close and absolutely worth checking out. There are many songs on here I really can’t wait to see live and wouldn’t ever want to make a Clutch playlist or compilation without ever again. If you aren’t sure if the album is for you, check out ‘Ghoul Wrangler’ – the music, production, eccentricity and lyrics should give you a good idea what you are in for.
If you haven’t heard of this one I don’t blame you. The Workhorse Movement were really over in the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things. If you’ve heard of them but haven’t heard the album, I don’t blame you. It wasn’t promoted or lauded enough as it deserved at the time and without them making any more albums there was no build up or cause for a new generation to get in to them.
If you have heard it, well then you know full well, this is one barking mad, fun and excellent album. How to even describe it? Eclectic, to say the least. It is a bizarre mixture of Clutch and Monster Magnet stoner rock with crazy lyrics, Sepultura on Roots proto-Nu Metal riffs, Faith No More variety (such as having additional brass instruments or latin music or funk or soul at different times). There’s even a sort of psychedelic space rock intro and a bit of that style in the verses of another song. There’s little bits of Rap Metal (well it was the year 2000 after all) but that’s far from the whole story. If that all sounds like a strange mix its because is, but somehow it works.
Its all topped off with a cheeky smile and a sense of humour. Lyrical topics include handshakes ‘Gimmie Some Skin,’ Detroit ‘Motown,’ Black Sabbath ‘Keep The Sabbath Dream Alive’ (“When I die there’s gonna be an electric funeraaaaal”) and all sorts of marijuana talk for better or worse. Lyrically its a bit silly but musically its dead serious (Again, not unlike Clutch or Monster Magnet). The experimentation with outside styles isn’t frivolous, its expertly done.
The important thing to remember is, this isn’t another generic forgettable release from the Nu Metal period. Its eclectic to the point of being progressive, its catchy as hell, its really fun and the songs themselves are really good. It not just wacky and novelty value only or something. These are really good songs. Some of those thick fat satisfying riffs are really enjoyable. Just listen to the appropriately titled ‘Heavy’ for the perfect example.
I’d like to point out highlights, such as ‘Charlie Don’t Surf,’ ‘Beotch’ and ‘Feel Like Bob Marley’ but to be honest no two songs on the album even sound the same. I mean, they fit together, and it flows well, but that diversity thing I mentioned? Yeah, that!
Hey I’m a Nu Metal apologist who can still happily listen to The Union Underground, but this isn’t that. This is like listening to King For A Day Fool For A Life Time at the same time as listening to Power Trip and The Elephant Riders, a collection of Pink Floyd B Sides and flicking through a dozen radio stations and catching fleeting glimpses of a range of music outside of rock, such as funk and soul. Then occasionally something not too dissimilar to the riff from ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ comes in and ties it all together.
If you want to hear something really fun and interesting you could really do a lot worse than Sons Of The Pioneers. Its a one-of-a-kind that’s for sure. As long as you aren’t terrified of everything that doesn’t sound like Burzum or indeed of everything that doesn’t sound like Manowar, I think you’ll really enjoy this underrated gem.
Clutch have come a long, long way from their Hardcore roots, and if you do a side-by side comparison of the likes of the Pitchfork or Passive Restraints EPs, you’d scarcely imagine it is the same band. They’ve weaved their way from defining Stoner Rock, to becoming loose and jam focused, to exploring Blues territories. All the way through they’ve been inventive, impressive, consistent and a whole barrel of fun. Almost no band going can claim to have more charm, personality or dependability, and there’s barely been a group on this Earth with the same down to earth vibe and strong work-ethic for such a long, long time. I mean, what other band still has all the original members of its debut album’s line-up, ten albums later?
That’s Clutch for you. Always honest, always consistent and always excellent. They do what they want and they do it well and it always sounds good. With their previous album, 2013’s Earth Rocker, the band stripped away all the frills and delivered the most focused and electrifying performance possible, with arguably the most trim and electric collection of tunes to date. It was a damn good album, with a good direction for the band at that moment in time, and the press and the public stood up, took notice and started to realize just what an amazing band Clutch had been all along. Clutch concerts had bigger audiences, you see more people in the streets wearing Clutch shirts and Clutch get more mentions on podcasts and magazines and popular music websites than they have in a while. Altogether; a triumph, well deserved and long-earned, with no hint of compromise. The band’s public mindshare has gone up and down over the year but right now feels like a golden era.
Psychic Warfare now comes along, two years later in 2015, and follows the same formula. Clutch give a damn focused, lazer-beam version of their trademark sound, in a briefer, more succinct fashion than ever before. They speed up the tempos, they give an even sweatier more powerful performance, and they never compromise what makes them so good in the first place.
‘X-Ray Visions,’ ‘Sucker For The Witch,’ ‘Decapitation Blues’ and especially ‘Noble Savage’ are barrelling, fast-paced rockers. Hold on to something or the album might well knock you over. ‘A Quick Death In Texas’ is a funky ZZ Top-flavoured smile-inducer that recalls previous work like ‘DC Sound Attack’ in its funky midsection and ‘50,000 Unstoppable Watts’ in its uplifting chorus (and features amusing lyrics about a man in mortal peril after having seduced ZZ Top’s singer’s wife). Balance is achieved with the sublime ‘Our Lady Of Electric Light’ and ‘Son Of Virginia’ which recall the very best of the slow side of Clutch; think ‘Drink To The Dead,’ ‘The Face,’ ‘The Regulator’ and ‘Basket Of Eggs’ and you’re in the right territory… but damn, these two are particularly strong, evocative and entertaining. It doesn’t overdo the slow moments, it doesn’t overdo the instrumental noodling, and even with all the speed it isn’t repetitive or simplistic. It is a pretty perfect mixture that captures Clutch as they are in 2015 absolutely masterfully.
As always, the musicianship is otherworldly with some of the most subtly fantastic drums in the industry and bass and guitar lines that will stick in your head for years if history is anything to go by – no one’s showing off but everyone comes across like a virtuoso. Fallon’s superb vocals are as sharp as ever; full of story-selling conviction and passion as he screams, sings, bellows and worries his way through poplar music’s greatest lyrical adventures since Phil Lynott passed away. The man knows how to convey drama, that’s for sure! I want to single out a few choice lyrics every time I review a Clutch record, so stupendous are the band at creating memorable lines, but man, I’d just have the whole damn record’s lyrics down this time!
Album highlights? Every damn song! Don’t even bother with a tester. If you like the band, you’ll love this. Overall; If you like the band then you absolutely need this in your collection. If you don’t like the band then you’re seriously missing out on something special – maybe try again now and reevaluate. In any case; I don’t reckon it would be humanly possible for Clutch to have made a better album and I can’t imagine enjoying anything they could’ve come up with this time more. I know it goes against my Catholic upbringing, but I’m a sucker for this album.
Shot To Hell is the seventh full-length studio album by the American Heavy Metal band Black Label Society, the biker-themed band started by ex-Ozzy Osbourne virtuoso guitarist Zack Wylde.
It was their first album on Roadrunner Records, and it was released in 2006, one year after their successful Mafia record. The album was co-produced by band leader Zakk Wylde and Michael Beinhorn (of Korn, Marilyn Manson, Soundgarden and Ozzy Osbourne fame).
The band are purveyors of big meaty riffs, frequent guitar slides, bends and squeals and of course Zack’s blistering solos for which the band are famous. The mostly guitar based songwriting is accompanied by Grunge-tinged singing, solid uncomplicated rhythms designed for head-banging and fist-pumping and a mixture of fast or mid-paced Metal songs with acoustic numbers (often with a slight Southern Rock hint or the inclusion of piano).
The vocals here have gone from a sort of blend between Neil Fallon and Layne Staley to having a larger Ozzy influence this time around. Other than that, this isn’t one of the band’s most talking-point albums. Not the rawest, the fastest, the doomiest, the most quiet, or anything else. This is just Black Label Society, doing their thing (meaty, simple, enjoyable Metal songs). It could be argued that this is a slightly more commercial effort due to the mostly shorter song durations and frequency of ballads, as well as the inclusion of the MTV friendly hit single “Concrete Jungle.” So; if you aren’t into the bands rawer, doomier side, skip their debut and start here, and vice-versa; if you want the band at their gnarliest start with the early stuff and work forwards.
No matter what direction you prefer from the band however, there are some really killer BLS songs on here; especially towards the end of the record. “Faith Is Blind,” as well as the acoustic-but-bouncy “Blood Is Thicker Than Water,” and especially the speedy “Devil’s Dime” are all particularly strong.
If you are a fan of Clutch, Alice In Chains, Pantera, ‘90s Corrosion Of Conformity, ‘90s Metallica, ‘90s Ozzy Osbourne, or even Soil then Black Label Society are well worth your time checking out. This album, while not boasting any easy descriptive label, is a good addition to the collection. I would also recommend Sonic Brew and Order Of The Black too if you haven’t heard them already.
Hello and welcome to the 15th day in this fourth round of my “Get (Into) What You Paid For” challenge, in which I attempt to not buy anything for a month, and reevaluate my opinion of records I bought previously but never really became a true fan of, taking this purchase-abstinence as a chance to finally “get my money’s worth” out’ve the more undervalued albums in my collection. That; and present thoughts and musings that don’t fit elsewhere on the blog.
I’m half-way through the challenge and have not caved in yet. Its been about a week since I last did a write-up. I have been pretty tempted at times to go into town and see what I could pick up… a quick visit to HMV or Forbidden Planet couldn’t hurt, right? NO! Stay focused….
I’ve also found myself drifting onto Amazon a lot. Maybe I’ll just pick up a copy of Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse, what with all this reunion concert stuff in the news…. NO! Just listen to the three Emperor albums in your existing collection idiot!
Well, maybe I’ll just go on Amazon and read reviews of Death’s Leporasy and Venom’s first three albums….whoah, what’s this, “add to basket”?…. Aaaahhhh! Undo, Undo Undo!
“Ok, I’ll just distract myself by re-reading DC’s Final Crisis, since it confused me the first time I read it but now I know more background and might be able to understand more… oh, Green Lantern is kind of cool, Captain Marvel is kind of cool. I wonder if there is a Justice League TV show… oh there is. I wonder if its available on Amazon……..Oh no, not again!…undo, undo, undo!”
I did eventually manage to distract myself by finally cracking open my copy of Dave Mustaine’s autobiography, which I actually received back in December as a Christmas Gift. Great book. I’m enjoying it a lot (despite the homophobia practically seeping through the pages and making me want to wash my hands) and I’ve got through the bits when he was in Metallica, to when he invented Megadeth and all the way up to where they’re just about to record Rust In Peace. Its cool. I never knew Ellefson was a drug addict too. I never knew the backstory of how Jeff Young and Chuck Behler got and lost their jobs. I never realized that Megadeth were almost as bad as Motely Crue for Sex Drugs and Rock N Roll decadence.
This made me go on a gigantic Megadeth listening spree, which is always a good spree to go on, if you ask me. Like Pantera, I never want to go too far without hearing some Megadeth. Its easy to let the bands that you really love go un-listened to when exploring new things, but its always good to just cast off the explorer’s hat and sit down in your favourite country. (What an odd analogy).
I really like rock star biographies and especially autobiographies. I’ve read Marilyn Manson’s one, no exaggeration, at least 20 times. If anyone would care to recommend some in the comments, drop me a line. Is Motorhead’s White Line Fever any good? Are there any good Metallica ones? Is Heavier Than Heaven good? Has anyone written one about Judas Priest? How about Anthrax?
Also, my non-music time can still result in a Metal-spotting news update; I watched the movie Zombie Land on Netflix recently. Metallica and Van Halen tracks were used. Reminds me of spotting Pantera on Orange Is The New Black. Sons Of Anarchy was great for that sort of thing, lots of stuff like Monster Magnet, Clutch, Soundgarden etc.
Zombie Land itself was OK. I like Jesse Eisenberg now, after The Social Network made him seem more than just “we can’t afford Michael Cera, hire someone similar” so just his presence is enjoyable. I wasn’t never a zombie fan and that always put me off trying out this movie. It just seemed like a lazy cash-in on what internet-users enjoyed that year (like if they made a Bacon movie last year). I’ve also watched the documentaries Supersize Me and Food Matters, but you’ll be disappointed to hear that there weren’t any Cannibal Corpse tracks in their soundtracks.
So yeah anyway… the week was going OK temptation-wise. Getting shaky but nothing I wasn’t able to stop when I thought about it. Then comes today…Oh, dear. You know what I just did? I just broke my damn challenge, didn’t I?
At the time of writing, I’ve just received an email about Machine Head tickets going on sale, and I automatically went and bought some straight away in case they sold out… temporarily forgetting the whole “don’t buy anything challenge” even as I was simultaneously writing about it here. Idiot. I should’ve waited until September to buy tickets, and if they sold out by then C’est La Vie.. at least I’d saved money, at least I’d learned discipline. Woops. Well, I guess this challenge is now going to be extended then, to make up for it. Damn. Shall we say another 15 days? A month from today, instead of a month from August 1st? No, today had a purchase in it, so I better make it 16 days. So, on September 15th it now ends. (August has a “31st”).
“Couldn’t have put tickets on sale a few weeks later, could you, 02 Apollo?” “Its not as if Machine Head are going to struggle to sell them out quickly in the UK. Are they now?”
Oh well. Nobody’s fault but my own. Still…. Machine Head tickets, ey? I haven’t ever gotten to see Machine Head before. This will be great. Think of the absolute thunderous up-wards trajectory they’ve been on for the past decade or so! Three absolutely superb albums, a fourth about to drop that seems every bit as excellent. I’m very excited about this. Its not like I broke the challenge by buying an album of Obituary B-sides or something… they say the key to happiness is buying memories instead of possessions. I reckon I’ll remember seeing Machine Head for some time to come.
Or so I’ll tell myself so I don’t look too stupid for breaking the challenge.
So. That’s the temptation and random thoughts aspect covered. What about the whole listening to things aspect of these articles?
I decided to augment my weightlifting experience today by listening to Jethro Tull’s Aqualung (hardly an under-listened gem seeing as its one of my favourite albums of all time and I listened to it almost daily for the three years or so after I initially bought it) and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet; which I bought a while back, along with some other Bon Jovi albums, to celebrate the end of my Exams. I’ve not listened to any of the Bon Jovi albums as much as I should have since that purchase, but they still aren’t in the under-appreciated zone yet, even if it is starting to look a bit like they might head that way. They are still in my new-purcahses drawer in the filing cabinet of my brain.
Slippery When Wet is a lot of fun. The hits are excellent. Even “Wanted Dead Or Alive” which I used to hate as a teenager, due to never sitting and listening to it all the way through. I had a gut-reaction of “yuck” and never questioned it. Well, much like the million faces Bon Jovi have seen, it now has rocked me. The only moment that is a bit questionable is the slow ballad “Without Love” which sounds too much like a high-school dance in an 80s movie for my tastes, but that is easily skippable. The rest of it? “I’d Die For You” is a monster. Really enjoyable song indeed. “Wild In The Streets” is similarly fun. I like “Raise Your Hands” a lot too. I certainly wouldn’t mind if this became a regular-listen of mine. Wouldn’t mind at all. OK… its not as heavy as W.A.S.P, or as infectious as Quiet Riot, or as brilliant a guitar-show as Dokken, or whoever else I’ve been listening to lately… but it is a very smooth, enjoyable listen.
The rest of my day has been spent listening to Kings Of Leon and Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album because I’m visiting someone else’s house at the minute and they’re fans of acoustic Nirvana and electric Kings Of Leon. Its like how I listen to Arctic Monkeys’ new album AM even more when my girlfriend is round… not everyone can listen to Megadeth and Exodus without feeling a little put-off, but AM is a record no one could find too crazy. That and its awesome. So if you have non-Metal-fans visiting, you can still listen to music you enjoy, without putting on something your companions don’t enjoy. No need to be so Metal that you are just selfish, ey?
But anyway… Kings Of Leon got a lot of flack in the Metal community over the last few years, especially around 2010-2012. Listening to them now, I notice a lot of similarities with Pearl Jam, and sometimes their use of slide guitar or bluesy shuffle evokes a certain Zeppelin-y-ness. I think, yeah… they’re a credible rock act. A real band of actual musicians who write real songs in a room together. Its not some cynical pop music and its not an elevated-above-their-station-by-NME band with one hit single and no substance. They’ve got a lot to offer people who listen to 60s and 70s rock bands, and the less-metallic 90s Grunge-era bands (Pearl Jam, post-Core Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins etc).
I’ve got a lot of respect for them now after hearing deep cuts and songs I didn’t hear-to-death on the radio or in adverts. I mean, listen to “McFearless” with its awesome drumbeat, buzzy production and lead-bass. Until the singing comes in, that could be off of Antichrist Superstar. The intro to “Charmer” has a dirty punk feeling like Bleach-era Nirvana, and when the guitar solo and bouncy beat are going in “Black Thumbnail” they could be Black Country Communion or something… its that old rock done nowadays sort of thing. “My Party” wouldn’t be too out-of-place on Pearl Jam’s Vitology album. I’m not saying that you could mistake Kings Of Leon for Slayer any time soon, and they shouldn’t get on a concert bill with Lamb Of God or anything, but… they’re not exactly Jedward.
But hey, I am a huge Libertines and Arctic Monkeys fan (and a decent-sized Frattellis fan), and most of the people who hated Kings Of Leon in 2010-2012 would see that as a reason not to trust my opinion.
So um, yeah… **Cough Cough** “Death to false Metal, only listen to Manowar” and all that…
Am I credible now?
In honour of my un-Metalness, today’s Top 5s will be of the British Indie bands in my music collection. There aren’t many, but I like them just the same as Testament, Fear Factory or Carpathian Forest.
The Libertines :
1. Good Old Days
2. Never Never
3. The Man Who Would Be King
4. The Delany
5. Skag And Bone Man
Dirty Pretty Things :
1. Bloodthirsty Bastards
2. Last Of The Smalltown Playboys
3. One To My Left
4. Kicks Or Consumption
5. Best Face
1. Back From The Dead
2. Fall From Grace
4. The Man Who Came To Stay
5. Baddie’s Boogie
1. Never Lose Your Sense Of Wonder
2. Midnight Flight
3. Up And Down
4. Working For The Industry
5. The Last Time That You Go
Arctic Monkeys :
1. You Probably Couldnt See For The Lights But You Were Looking Straight At Me
2. Still Take You Home
3. RU Mine?
4. My Propeller
5. If You Were There, Beware
The Fratellis :
1. My Friend John
2. Got Ma Nuts From A Hippy
3. Creeping Up The Backstairs
4. The Acid-Jazz Singer
5. Tell Me A Lie
I went to go see Clutch live last night, on Thursday the 24th of April 2014, at the Academy in Manchester. This is one of the gigs I’ve been most looking forward to all year (with a year being September-September as opposed to January-January).
The support act for the evening was Lionize, who I hadn’t heard before seeing them. Lionize were kind of the same as Monster Truck or Sixty Watt Shaman in that they sound really similar to Clutch but aren’t quite as magical. They’re the kind of band who I’d give a good review to, but would loose enthusiasm for and rarely listen to after that initial excitement has gone. I enjoyed them, but I wouldn’t investigate further.
I actually expected Clutch to play in the smaller Academy 2 or Club Academy venues, seeing as how they are kind of a cult band that should be bigger than they are, but it seems that with Earth Rocker they’ve caught a big wave, and are becoming as big as they deserve to be at last, as they played in the much larger Academy venue. (Neil even commented “Its nice to be in the big room.”)
They played in front of a large Earth Rocker artwork banner, and had a modest light-show, but for the most part it was the same stripped down, working-man thing they always do. I can’t imagine a band like them playing with foam cannons, confetti bombs and video screens of clothing advertisements (like Bring Me The Horizon did when I saw them at this same venue a few months ago).
How were they? Well, you don’t need me to tell you Clutch are good live. Its one of the first things you ever hear about that band. They’re great live.
Last night was no exception. They were fantastic! They played an energetic, rousing set that concentrated on their faster, heavier and more exciting material, with a big emphasis on the Blast Tyrant and Earth Rocker albums. In fact they played almost all of Earth Rocker. It kind of feels like they are fulfilling their potential. Like they’d accidentally become one of the best bands in the world while thinking they’re just some dudes at a bar, and now they realized they look like absolute fucking superstars if they play the right songs in the right order.
Neil is such a great frontman, and his gesturing and jumping up and down really conveys the stories told in the lyrics. He really throws himself into it. Even when he has a harmonica or a guitar (or in the case of ‘DC Sound Attack’ – a cowbell!) he can still bounce around like somebody excited to tour their debut record.
It was a pretty banging setlist. For the most parts you got quick punchy songs like ‘Earth Rocker,’ ‘The Mob Goes Wild,’ ‘Pure Rock Fury,’ ‘Burning Beard,’ and a very fun rendition of ‘Unto The Breach.’
They were tighter here than on some of the live albums I’ve heard, and while they still threw in additional drum fills, groove parts and jams, they were brief and trim and musical. The two slowest moments of the evening were a drum solo and a slightly out-of-place rendition of “Space Grass” to break up all the speed. The got the guy out from Lionize to play keyboards on ‘1000111010’ which was pretty damn bombastic live. (Three times is jive).
Towards the end, the threw in ‘The Soapmakers’ and ‘The Wolfman Kindly Requests…’ both of which were absolutely off the chain. Very exciting, you should’ve seen the smile on my face.
The encore featured ‘The Regulator,’ ‘Electric Worry’ and ‘One Eye Dollar.’ It was crazy how into it the crowd were. People were so excited to sing “Bang, bang, bang, Vaminos, Vaminos.”
That goes for the whole concert. The crowd were absolutely loving it. Loud, loud cheers, some of the loudest I’ve heard in these last two years of more-frequent concert attendance. Also, a lot more polite. Only one crowd-surfer the whole time. No barging and shoving. I got really close to the front and got to stand there comfortably and unmolested the whole night with no competition for space. My favourite kind of concert.
Overall, this was an absolutely brilliant concert. I had a fantastic time and the band performed a great set. I can’t imagine anyone at all walking out of that show and not having had a good time. One D-Bag was overheard to comment “Well, as far as accessible Clutch goes…” – but aside from hipsters who only want to hear B-sides, stuff from Impetus and a lot of jamming, I’d wager that 99.9% of Clutch fans would be impressed and satisfied. Its also cool that they’ve earned the right to play in such a big venue (the same one Megadeth played in). The concert was so good that I bought myself a tour T-shirt afterwards even after saying I wouldn’t at the beginning of the night… Just like what happened at Queensryche.
I hope they put out a live DVD from this tour, it will be their best live album, hands down. That’s how good it was. Go see them live if you can!