Clutch is the greatest rock entity on earth; this we already know. The Maryland band’s latest album, Strange Cousins From the West (Weathermaker), is sure to go down as another landmark in their 19-year career of hyper-literate Zenmetal scholastics. Likewise, their previous studio releases contain every almost every answer to the Secrets of the Universe, in addition to rump-shaking, stoner-rock grooves. Submitted for your approval, probing analysis of seven Clutch classics:
From Clutch’s debut, a relentless, scuzz-metal groove that roils beneath an excoriating rant on Big Tobacco and the South but curiously omits any criticism of monster trucks—likely because decorative “truck nuts” hadn’t been invented yet. “I rolled Jesse Helms like a cigarette/ And smoked him higher than the highest of the minarets/ Jesse James couldn’t even handle it/ Started looking at me like I was Sanskrit.” Exit with singer Neal Fallon urging—daring?—the listener to “come to where the flavor is.” A cautionary tale.
On their sophomore disc, Clutch turn the simple, Zeppelinriffed tale of a luckless fishing trip along the Susquehanna River upside-down with a historical find: the remains of the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln. “Lead box in Sassafras Cove/ I brought him on up and then I packed him on in, oh yes/ Now I’m really cashing in/ Wash of the Chesapeake and Appalachian Blue Range/ I have discovered the body of John Wilkes Booth/ Yes, it’s true, I have Mr. Booth/ Everybody got to make a living somehow/ Do I hear a million?” A moral quandary: Sell Booth’s cadaver on eBay? With no reserve?
A heavyslinky number not about a Playboy centerfold, but an Old West witch who terrorized gold prospectors with buffalo stampedes and lighting. Despite “voodoo” setbacks, the victim vows to “get off on the good foot and start another day.” But then: “At the side of the road/ A bundle of twine/ And on it I found a note/ It read, ‘You’ll be running until the end of time.’” Haunting.
Over a grinding, single-minded metallic chug with funky organ stabs, Fallon laughs and launches into a quicktongued, Chuck D-esque rap tirade against lesser wordsmiths: “You rely on gimmicks to amuse your fans and act all urban to jack up your Soundscan/ What’s the matter with you?/ How come you rhyme monosyllabically?/ Is atrophy shrinking your entire vocabulary?/ Your style’s like garbage cans, meant to be taken out on a weekly basis/ Ever since your first record you’ve been in a state of suspended animation/ You look like Snuffleupagus and Astropithecus/ Me cray, you abacus/ But enough about you, let’s talk about me and how single-handedly I redefined the science of radio astronomy/ Making Nobel prize winners question their notions of reality.” Later, Fallon meditates on “all the nice places I’ve been” after rebuffing the advice of Dr. Laura, as should we all.
A raging tire-fire of Hendrix wah-wahs, Sabbath legatos and Idiocracy prophecies, wherein Fallon spells out the obvious: Bono is a dick. “Who you gonna call when the man brings his hammer down?/ Goose stepping with a smoking Irish fly.”
“The Incomparable Mr. Flannery” (Robot Hive: Exodus, 2005)
Portrait of a desperate man on the run: How to keep “rockin’ with Dokken” when you’re one of America’s Most Wanted? “First we get some surgery/ Lose the kids, then our identities/ But one thing I know for a fact/ Moustache stays right where it’s at/ REO Speedwagon, Kansas to Boston/ My ankle bracelet, already gone and lost it/ Them yellow jackets keep the tired man from slacking.” Over the tight, slide-blues din, our hero pleads: “Stole my Camaro, primer gray/ Took my suitcase, all my pay/ Ain’t got no tailights, grill full of fur/ How could you do this to a man so close to being cured?” A searing indictment of the American legal system.
“Power Player” (From Beale Street to Oblivion, 2007)
A hard-driving rocker about black-ops espionage that states the truism “You can always tell the terrorist by his cologne and the watch on his wrist,” and then warns “I’m not giving you attitude, I just want another drink/ Get your hands off me, you don’t know who I am/ I’m a power player.” Mr. Cheney, I presume?