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Clutch - * * * *

Planes drop from the sky, people disappear and bullets fly
Little grey men are coming our way (tastes just like chicken they say)
Actually they're all around, Secret bunkers underground
Round em up, Skin em alive, Rolling Rolling Rolling, Rawhide
Carter is a clone, Dozen brothers round the globe
MJ-12 damned us to hell, Scroll and key, Skull and bone
It's only just begun, The best is yet to come

-Animal Farm

I think it's Maverick Moonminer of Fitshaced Magazine who best described Clutch: "if NASCAR had a house band, this would be it." That just about says it all. Mississippi Delta blues and balls out hardcore don't mix that often, but god damn they should. The first thing which strikes me about Clutch is their originality. They seamlessly blend styles which are polar opposites. I can not name one other band which sounds like this. Mental images of Black Sabbath in their prime are conjured during Spacegrass. Neil Fallon's rythmic growling vocals are somewhat similar to Pro-Pain but with a lot less agression and a lot more groove. His crazed ranting vocal style also reminds me in places of the local Baptist minister's last sermon (7 Jam), a drunken sailor (Big News 1 & 2), and some of Art Bell's more fluidly psychotic late night callers (Animal Farm).

All of this is combined with a weird paranoid conspiracy freak X Files Area 51 theme running throughout the lyrics. This is a really interesting and enetertaining approach to heavy music. Clutch is essentially a blues boogie band with a lot of distortion, a hardcore vocalist, and an endless supply of imagination for lyrics. The styles sometimes clash and the band's sound suffers a bit from this clash. But when it all locks together, Clutch rocks like no band has before them.

The House That Peterbilt and Tim Sult vs. The Greys are basically extended blues jamming with a lot of distortion on guitar and vocals. Peterbilt is probably the best song on the disc, a truly massive Led Zeppelin style guitar riff and hardcore vocals in perfect time with one another. Spacegrass is another incredible song, with a slow low end bass line reminiscent of Geezer Butler's best work on the first Sabbath album. The lyrics tell the story of a space traveller hippie looking for the ultimate high in a 73 Dodge Swinger spaceship ("hit neutral in the tail of a comet, let the vortex pull my weight, push the seat back a little lower, watch light bend in the blower, Jesus on the dashboard"). The lyrics are imaginative and humorous. Half of Clutch's strength lies in their storytelling ability, with each song taking on some kind of narrative tone. To call this a concept album would be inaccurate, because they're not really trying to say anything. Clutch does however manage to capture imagery and narrative rather well, telling exaggerated fictional stories like a drunken New England sailor. I give Clutch full credit for trying new things and for having the balls to step outside of normal stylistic limitations. Sometimes it falls flat and some of the songs could have been better. But then again, this is Clutch, and whatever it is they're trying to do, I'm sure no one else could do it better. Welcome to the Planet Of Clutch, long may they rule.

* * * *

Reviewed: February, 1998

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