Released by: Weathermaker Music
Release Date: Out now!
Genre: Stoner/hard/blues rock
Neil Fallon – Vocals
Dan Maines – Bass,
Tim Sult – Guitar
Jean-Paul “JP” Gaster – Drums, Backing Vocals
Mike Schauer – Keyboards
1. Earth Rocker
2. Crucial Velocity
3. Mr. Freedom
4. D.C. Sound Attack!
5. Unto the Breach
6. Gone Cold
7. The Face
8. Book, Saddle, and Go
9. Cyborg Bette
10. Oh, Isabella
11. The Wolf Man Kindly Requests…
It truly puzzles me as to why some bands somehow never quite reach a wider audience, despite being creative and enjoyable, as well as pumping some genuinely fun and rocking music since the 90s. Clutch is one of these bands. The band behind mastermind Neil Fallon have been at it for some time now and they haven’t been the type of band to repeat themselves every album. They’ve always done their own little thing, and that is crafting some bluesy, southern-tinged rock ever since their self-titled debut way back in the early 90s.
For me, Clutch is about either of two things: the stupidly fun and catchy blues rock and the witty lyricism of Neil Fallon. He can be as funny and humorous (“Sleestak Lightning”, from Strange Cousins From the West) and as witty and cerebral (“Burning Beard”, from Robot Hive/Exodus), which is a far too uncommon thing to find these days, I find. I have nothing against the “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” kind of sleaze ball rock but I personally like a bit more depth in my music and Clutch has always delivered on both the musical and lyrical fronts. No matter if you take their earlier albums (Pure Rock Fury), their mid-period (Robot Hive/Exodus) or their most recent work (in occurrence, the presently reviewed record, Earth Rocker), the band always delivers a rock solid experience.
That’s not to say the band never evolved, however. From their buzzing, hard rocking early days to the heavy wall of sound of The Elephant Riders and Pure Rock Fury, you could already tell in their first few albums that a treasured gem of a band was in the works. It was however 2004’s Blast Tyrant that would be a stepping stone for them, bringing a much cleaner, groovier and more blues-laden sound to the table while retaining the fun, the intensity and the riffs that fueled their previous albums. From there, the band would gradually expand on that sound, refining and polishing it with each album while crafting some ridiculously catchy songs (“Mice and Gods”, “10001110101”, “The Mob Goes Wild” and “Electric Worry”, to name a few). Earth Rocker is already their 9th studio album and my psychic powers tell me it’s going to be another one to add to their already great discography.
So after the mandatory intro… wait, what? This is Clutch we’re talking about! Who needs those intros anyway? Already with the opening title track “Earth Rocker”, we get thrown into familiar Clutch territory. It’s a deep bass-heavy, riff-fest of a song with a stupidly catchy, almost anthemic chorus. A fantastic way to open the album, most definitely! The second aural assault is “Crucial Velocity” once again hits hard with catchy chorus and some nice bluesy verses with Fallon’s southern-sounding vocal tone. The song also features a badass solo. “Mr. Freedom” follows, a shorter, punchy track with some killer guitar work of the kind only the mighty Clutch knows how to deliver. Clutch shifts gears (see what I did there?) after that with “D.C. Sound Attack!” giving a nod to their early days’ slight hardcorish sound and lacing it with their more recent, groove-laden whiskey and blues. The result is a killer rocking track (one of my favorites on the record and the finest Clutch song since Electric Worry!) what will definitely bring down the house (if it wasn’t already brought down by now)! The next song “Unto the Breach” keeps the hard hitting, furious groove going with another riff-heavy and hard rocking track. Things once again shift in pace with “Gone Cold”, a mellow, very southern-ish track with Fallon’s deep, bass-heavy and liquor-strained croon. I find myself digging this song, honestly. It’s definitely different but it really fits the band in my opinion. The country-sounding guitar is terrific and manages to give it a great vibe, far away from the idiotic pop-country artists without substance that plague the mainstream and instead nodding to the greats of genuine country music, thus closing the first half of the album on a great note.
It doesn’t take too long for the band to get back to rocking out however, as “The Face” shows. Despite being heavy and riff-heavy, the pacing is a bit slower here but that doesn’t stop it from being quite catchy and boasting a great chorus section. A booming bass line greets you with “Book, Saddle, and Go” where we get a good display of Dan Maines on bass. The song itself is a great Clutch blues rocker like they know how to craft them, with catchy chorus to boot. “Cyborg Bette” keeps up the pace with another fast and bouncy rocker, with a bit of a humorous tinge to it lyrically-wise, showing us that Neil hasn’t lost his humor and his clever lyricism. “Oh, Isabella” is not quite my favorite track on Earth Rocker I have to say, but I wouldn’t call it a bad song. It’s simply not as immediately enjoyable to me as most of the other tracks and it is the longest one here, which doesn’t exactly help. Thankfully, it doesn’t close the album. That is instead the job of the closing “The Wolf Man Kindly Requests…” which ends the album on a strong note, with its fun bluesy vibe and solid riffs.
So, is Earth Rocker their best album so far? No, I can’t say I quite feel that way, myself (that still remains Robot Hive/Exodus for me). However, it ends up being quite close and I can say that to me, Earth Rocker is their most consistent one in a little while. It is chockfull of catchy, fun blues rock songs even flirting with a little hardcore to keep their edge and give a nod to the old days. Personally, after a good dozen spins, I would say it found a comfy spot between Robot Hive/Exodus and From Beale Street to Oblivion.
You really could open a drawer and mention a plethora of bands which Clutch has drawn inspiration from at one point or another: Led Zep, Uriah Heep, Sabbath, Howlin’ Wolf, Deep Purple, Monster Magnet… the list goes on and on and is as diverse as it is obvious and impressive. Yet, Clutch always managed to sound their own and never like a cheap copy of this or that band.
Someone once said to me that “Clutch is like the stoner equivalent of AC/DC” and you know, I can but agree; you know what you’re getting into and you expect to get a good time. You can always count on them. It’s music to turn your brain off to and just rock out. Clutch is the kind of band that brings an experience that can make even warm beer taste awesome. I can’t speak for it myself but I keep hearing only praise for their live performances and judging from their live albums, the fans clearly are having a blast. And isn’t that what some good old freaking rock should be about?
Written by Chris Auclair