Congrats Clutch For Breaking Your Own Record

2013 band pic for Clutch, part of their promotion for the Earth Rocker CD

All I can really say is congratulations to my fave band on Earth, Clutch, for breaking their own record with the release of Earth Rocker last month.

In case you weren’t aware, Clutch set a record back in 2009 with their Strange Cousins From The West CD, which became the first totally independently recorded and released album to chart in the Top 40 of the Billboard 200 Albums chart (chart peak position: 38).  Earth Rocker shattered this record by entering the chart at #15…getting glowing reviews from all over the place certainly hasn’t hurt, either.

Couldn’t happen to a better band, and if you haven’t heard the music, you’re missing out.  Check it out and/or buy it here.

 

Clutch – Earth Rocker

clutchearthrockercover

 

 

 

 

2013 Weathermaker Music

I remember that fateful day in late 2002 when I walked into Iko’s Music in York, PA and saw a copy of Clutch’s most recent CD Pure Rock Fury, along with their Impetus EP.  I had lost track of Clutch and many of my favorite bands in the late 1990′s and the turn of the millennium, whatwith being consumed by a depressing and dismal marriage, and was immediately blown away by Pure Rock Fury when I listened to it on headphones in the store.  Neil Fallon’s intelligent and often humorous wordsmithing also brought some much-needed smile action to my face as well.

Needless to say, I bought the disc and have been a Clutch homer ever since.

Pure Rock Fury marked a decided upping of the ante in terms of focus and energy, and it was the beginning of a string of 4 straight studio albums that I would personally put up against any string of 4 albums by any rock band in history:  the aforementioned album, Blast Tyrant’s Atlas of the Invisible World Including Illustrations of Strange Beasts and Phantoms, Robot Hive/Exodus and From Beale Street To Oblivion.  As much as I was anxiously awaiting 2009′s Strange Cousins From The West, it was ultimately a disappointing album missing many of the deep and long-lasting hooks of previous works.  I could only hope that their next album would be a kickin’ return to form.

Needless to say, it is.

Earth Rocker will undoubtedly draw comparisons to 2004′s classic Blast Tyrant’s Atlas of the Invisible World Including Illustrations of Strange Beasts and Phantoms, as producer Machine is back with his latest mix guaranteed to lay waste to your sorry woofers.  I would call this new collection of tunes a melding of the very best elements of Pure Rock Fury and Blast Tyrant as only Gone Cold lightens up on the throttle, creating the same moody vibe as The Regulator.  Hooks and energy come flying at you relentlessly, as the rather silly chorus of the title track wins you over with conviction guitar power.  Speaking of hooks and riffs, everything that was missing on Strange Cousins has been found…and found in spades.

Earth Rocker and Crucial Velocity kick the album off in unrestrained fashion much the way You Can’t Stop Progress and Power Player kicked off the Beale Street album, albeit with more power from Machine’s white-hot mix.  Then we’re on to what is my initial favorite tune, Mr. Freedom, which finds the good Rev. Fallon back in a venomous wordsmithing form that stretches over the remainder of the album.

DC Sound Attack! has a groove that just cannot be stopped while Unto the Breach, Cyborg Bette and Oh, Isabella are other highlights of both groove and hooks.  The guitar sound is sharp, the riffs are quite intoxicating, Neil Fallon is commanding the mic and rock’s greatest rhythm section of Dan Maines and Jean-Paul (The Master) Gaster groove in the deepest of pockets.

Final verdict?  Nary a duff track to be found.  This is Clutch back in classic form and Earth Rocker stands easily next to the very best of Clutch’s incredible catalogue of music.  Blast Tyrant still stands as my fave Clutch album, but after 10 listens already Earth Rocker could be my favorite Clutch album on any given day.

Rock and roll isn’t dead.  Rock and roll is back…and it’s name is Clutch.

Rating:  5 out of 5

Buy Earth Rocker full CD          Download Earth Rocker full disc as MP3

Are You An Earth Rocker? New Clutch Is Coming…

Ladies and gents, it’s almost time for the greatest rock band of the 21st century to unleash their new CD, “Earth Rocker,” on the world.  From the sounds that Clutch has so kindly allowed to leak via YouTube and the Earth Rocker website, the new disc is going to be a welcome return to form after the somewhat disappointing (but still pretty good) Strange Cousins From The West in 2010.

Check out the lead track “Earth Rocker” and enjoy samples from the entire album in the second video.  2013 (The First Year Of The Rest Of Our Lives) is gonna be a good one for our fave earth rockers!

 

Clutch – Live in Flint, MI & Live in Melbourne, AU

2004 River Road Records              2007

I recently came across these gems from my favorite band online and I’m just stunned.  Though I should have known they would be excellent.

Both discs are worth seeking out if you’re a Clutch fan.  Being a proud veteran of numerous shows, I can confidently say they’re both fine documents of Clutch live and up close, and “Heard It All Before” is kinda special due to the fact that our fave Maryland boys recorded it live on their first Australian tour.

One of the discs, however, stands out as absolutely one of my favorite live albums of all time, and that’s Live In Flint, MI.  Recorded live at the Machine Shop in front of a rabid crowd, it documents a two hour show from the “Blast Tyrant” tour and features material from all their albums, as well as some cool B-sides like “Hoodoo Operator.”

The surprising highlights for me, though, were the tunes from the self-titled “Clutch” CD from 1995.  I was originally not a huge fan of that disc, due to what I feel is a powerless drum mix that doesn’t do Jean-Paul “The Master” Gaster justice, and really an overall mix that lacks power and crispness.  With said power and crispness, those tracks are my overall favorites here, with “Rock and Roll Outlaw” just leveling the place and “Tight Like That” translating well to a heavier live format and providing the perfect chaser for “…Outlaw.”   “Escape From the Prison Planet” and “I Have the Body of John Wilkes Booth” show up in powerful form here, as do “Big News I” and “Big News II.”

Honorable mention goes to “Walking in the Great Shining Path of Monster Trucks” and exemplify how well the inimitable Neil Fallon is able to make these older tracks work with his newer vocal stylings, as they were recorded with his old monotone growl on the studio versions.  The more modern Clutch tunes from “Elephant Riders” through “Blast Tyrant” sound as excellent as you would hope, too.

I’ve flown many, many times to and from Louisiana to spend time with my children and I can’t tell you how many times this has been my music of choice to get my mind off of my fear of flying.  Dozens easily.  One of those few live documents that actually makes you feel like you’re a part of the celebration not apart from the celebration.  The proudly face-melting mix makes you feel like you’re right there…you can almost smell the sweat.

For Clutch fans, this is a must have.  For the uninitiated, “Live in Flint, MI” is a great introduction to a superb rock band and will undoubtedly have you hungry for their back catalogue.

Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Clutch – Live at the 9:30 Club (DVD)

2010 Weathermaker Music

(note:  I wrote this right after the release of this DVD last year, but noticed that I saved it as a draft and never posted it.  Sorry…)

Being the total Clutch homer that I am, I pre-ordered my copy of this…just so I could get my own 2-foot long Clutch logo sticker which I now proudly display in my studio:) Clutch is the band that turns me into a 15-year-old again…when nothing mattered but music.

If you buy into the Clutch thang, you’ll undoubtedly be happy with this. First, you have the live show which clocks in at around 90 minutes. Clutch is a machine live…and you never know what the set list will be from show to show. Unlike so many corporate bands (Def Leppard comes to mind in a big way), Clutch doesn’t forsake their early material when it comes to their live shows.

In fact they celebrate it…and it’s testimony to their songwriting that early songs like “A Shogun Named Marcus,” “The House that Peterbilt,” and “Escape from the Prison Planet” sound even better today in a live setting with Clutch’s modern deep-fried groove and resident vocabularian Neil Fallon’s more melodic vocal stylings.

The latter song is on this DVD in full-force as our fave Maryland boys play their self-titled 1995 disc in its entirety in this live set. 1995′s Clutch album is a bit of an underground classic, but I never truly appreciated the songs until I heard them live. Truth is, I always felt the production on that album was way too thin…but man do these songs just burn live and it’s such a kick to hear a rabid crowd singing along to “Escape…,” “Spacegrass,” and my two faves “Rock and Roll Outlaw” and “I Have the Body of John Wilkes Booth.”

I could go on and on…and most of my friends are probably tired of me talking about Clutch. Lol   Just a wonderful band and a wonderful live document here.

The second CD is a 100+ minute documentary following Clutch on the road with both band and fan interviews. Loads of fun with a band that’s unbelievably humble considering how good they are. Listening to Jean-Paul “The Master” Gaster talk about drums is mesmerizing. A lot of thought goes into the sounds both he and the entire band make.

This is a band that cares.

We all should.

Rating:   5 out of 5

Clutch – King of Arizona (LIVE)

I just discovered this gem on YouTube.    From the sound of this and “The Dragonfly,” they should release this show as a live disc.

Just another example of why Clutch is my favorite band.   Just plain magic.

Enjoy Abysmally…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xno6MXcNdIw&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00&border=1]

Clutch – The Dragonfly (live video)

There’s just something about this song that does it for me.  Studio version on The Elephant Riders CD is good, but live this song just smokes.  Tim Sult’s guitar intro is just too cool, then the band kicks in.  Enjoy…and check out the lyrics while you do.   Just brilliant!


 

Lyrics to The Dragonfly:

Could’ve been a swan on a glassy lake.
Could’ve been a gull in a clipper’s wake.
Could’ve been a ladybug on a windchime,
but she was born a dragonfly.

In the sun she warmed her wings
and listened to the cicadas sing.

“The trees are all bending
in one direction
because of something…”

Cross-pollination by the legs of bees in the spring
is a beautiful thing.
Oh when the sun goes down,
the fireflies come out.

In a pond crept a slimy thing
that hummed a theme from the Rites of Spring.

Pity the mate of Queen Mantis,
so content, but so headless.
Katydid nothing but shiver and cry,
as did the dragonfly.

In the shade the gypsies spin
Among the cloves, they drop their skin.

“…beyond the hedgegrove,
over by the willows,
deep in the shadows…”

Regeneration occurs at a furious speed
beneath the white oak tree.
Oh when the sun comes up
the moon buds fold up.

In the sun she warmed her wings
and listened to the Rites of Spring

Could’ve been a swan on a glassy lake.
Could’ve been a gull in a clipper’s wake.
Could’ve been a ladybug on a windchime,
but she was born a dragonfly.

Clutch – Strange Cousins From The West

clutch-strange-cousins-from-the-west 2009 Weathermaker

I’ve been waiting for what seems like forever for this disc to be released, and it seems like it’s taken me forever to get around to reviewing it.

First things first:  I’ve been a self-admitted Clutch homer since 2001′s “Pure Rock Fury” and personally they’re my favorite band.  That being said, this disc is much more the slow-grower than previous releases for my Abysmal ears.   Whereas I felt their last album “From Beale Street To Oblivion” was loaded with hooks while the guitar sound was more fuzzy than biting, the guitar cuts through the mix on “Strange Cousins…” in a way that’s reminiscent of the “Robot Hive” disc…probably due to the same producer overseeing things here.  Excellent choice.

At first I was rather underwhelmed, as none of the songs (save for instant classic “Struck Down”) reached out and grabbed me the way numerous songs on “Blast Tyrant,” “Pure Rock Fury” and “Robot Hive – Exodus” did on the first listen.   Then as I listened more, I was drawn in by the textures and subtleties of the music at hand and reached the conclusion that what we have here is yet another solid disc by truly great band.

The rhythm section of Jean-Paul Gaster (drums) and Dan Maines (bass) takes over right off the bat with the jazzy and labyrinthal timekeeping of opener “Motherless Child,” and lays down a furious funky groove immediately afterward on “Struck Down” before you can even catch your breath.

The riffs are very much steeped in 70′s rock, but what is really evident upon repeated listens is guitarist Tim Sult’s playful manipulation of sound textures while keeping the riffs quite meaty overall.   Keeping with their working-man’s cool image, they throw in an excellent cover tune by Argentinian group Poppo’s Blues Band “Algo Ha Cambiado,” sung entirely in Spanish by the one-and-only Neil Fallon who sounds strangely comfortable singing in Poppo’s native tongue.   Rounding out the proceedings is knee-slapper “Sleestak Lightning,” with the trademark Clutch groove laying the foundation for Fallon’s always intelligent and amusing witicisms.  To wit:

West Virginia has its Moth Man,
Pan handlers’ got their Skunk Ape.
But I have a tazer and night vision goggles,
Costco rolls of black duct tape.
It’s got red eyes, it’s got razor claws,
It’s got green skin, no it ain’t a meth-head.
And after studying its behavior, objectively and critically,
I believe I have a reliable method.
.

Clutch once again is a world unto themselves and well worth the visit, but this time the hooks leave a little something to be desired.  The performance of the band is impeccable as always, as all 4 are master craftsmen of their instruments, but for the first time since I started following Clutch in 1993, I get the sense of songs that feel unfinished and an album that wasn’t quite ready to be made.  Conviction and energy are there, but the songs aren’t quite up to Clutch’s established standard.

Rating:  3.5 out of 5

CLICK HERE to buy Strange Cousins from the West

Clutch – The Elephant Riders

Elephant   1998 Columbia/Sony

If you’ve spent much time in the Abyss, you’ve probably figured out that Clutch is pretty much my favorite band ever…possessing all the elements I love about really great rock music.   The grooves, the guitars (LOTS of guitar), hooks and undeniable intelligence…it’s all here.

While Clutch really hit their stride with Pure Rock Fury, The Elephant Riders is the album where they really started to hone in on the elements that make them so unique.   Many Clutch fans regard this as their best disc, while I personally reserve that designation for Blast Tyrant or Robot Hive/Exodus, mostly because the production on this disc isn’t quite to my sonic liking.

Nonetheless, the songs are most definitely there, and I’ve gained a new appreciation for this and Clutch’s earlier releases after hearing them in the live context (see Full Fathom Five).   The hilarious visual of Civil War soldiers riding into battle astride elephants pretty much says it all.   This is music that exists for the pure joy of sound, and if you care to dig beneath the surface you will find layer after layer of intelligence and humor that are well worth your time.

The strength of the riffs is undeniable, songs like “The Soapmakers” and “The Yeti” just enjoyable beyond belief even before you dig into the lyrics.   Everything good about classic rock is on display here, including eclectic variety on songs like “Green Buckets” and “Wishbone,” the latter containing one of many funny Neil Fallon musings.  To wit:  For Thanksgiving we had taters, succotash and rutabegas.

The only other person I know of to use the word “rutabega” in a song was Frank Zappa on “Duchess of  Prunes” (from Absolutely Free), and that’s pretty good company to say the least.

I’ve gotta give props to “Ship of Gold” as the first Clutch song I can remember really sinking my teeth into.   Living in Dallas when this was released, I remember listening to this track over an over and just being mezmerized by the groove.   I just simply had never heard anything quite like it.

The crown jewel of this thoroughly entertaining carnival of sound, though, is my favorite Clutch song of all time “The Dragonfly,” which paints a captivating picture of the rites of spring from the point of view of a newly hatched dragonfly:  Oh in the sun she warms her wings, and listens to cicadas sing.   Or how ’bout …trees are all bendin’ in one direction, because of somethin’ – cross-pollination on the legs of bees in spring, it’s a beautiful thing.  There’s just no other band that can pull this off with such total conviction.   This song, however, is best experienced in the live context as a superb opening call-to-arms on the fierce Full Fathom Five live CD/DVD.

There’s really not a bad Clutch album in the whole bunch, and if you want to dig deeper into their back catalogue (pre-Pure Rock Fury) this is a great place to start, The Elephant Riders offering song after song of memorable hooks and sheer fun.

Rating:   4 out of 5

Clutch – Full Fathom Five (DVD)

clutch1 (2008 Weathermaker)

If you’ve spent much time in the Abyss, you’ve probably figured out that Clutch, Swell and The Tea Party are my favorite bands.  We all have those bands whose albums we don’t need to hear before we buy them.  We buy them because we know they’re going to satisfy every time.  These are three of mine and Clutch just seems to be an unstoppable freight train.

I’ve watched this disc so many times…even let it play on after I’ve fallen asleep late at night.   Song after song just relentlessly grooves and captivates you with riffs you can just chew on forever.   If you’re looking for flash and hype (hey, I still love watching the old KISS concerts from back in the day), you won’t find any here.

What you will find is a guitarist (Tim Sult) in total command of his style, a lead vocalist (Neil Fallon) who is incomparably intelligent and incommand of his vocabulary, and a rhythm section (Jean-Paul Gaster on drums and Dan Maines on bass) who is the most underrated in rock.   I used to say that about Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd of Soundgarden before that great band sadly broke up.  I mean Gaster and Maines are just relentless and on the money to the point where I have to think Fallon and Sult just couldn’t be any more comfortable in their respective roles.   I’ve never seen anyone get more out of a simple jazz kit than Gaster.    I just don’t think there’s anyone better.

The song selection is very satisfying, although I could have used more from “Pure Rock Fury.”    The DVD opener “The Dragonfly” (from The Elephant Riders CD) really sets the tone and sounds better than the fine studio version.

If you’re a Clutch fan already, you MUST own this.  If you’re not a Clutch fan, it’s a fine introduction to the otherworldly machine known as Clutch.

The greatest rock band of the 21st Century.

CLICK HERE TO BUY Full Fathom Five: Video Field Recordings 2007-2008 THROUGH AMAZON.COM

UPDATE 3/3/09:   Just saw these guys (finally!) live for the first time two nights ago at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster.  Wow.  The place was packed and Clutch just took over.  I remember leaving very satisfied with the songs in the set that night (opener “I Have The Body of John Wilkes Booth” just blew the roof off the place and set the tone) while at the same time noticing the absence of some of my faves like “Escape From the Prison Planet,” “Pure Rock Fury,” and “The Soapmakers.”   These guys have so many good songs there’s no possible way they could play them all in one show.   While they may not be as huge as Phish, Clutch shares that characteristic with that band and, like Phish, delivers time after time for their fans.   If this is how Phish Heads feel about their favorite band, I understand now after watching this DVD countless times (and still running) and finally going to a live show.  I’m hooked now more than ever.