For over 25 years, Clutch has been making killer music. While that kind of longevity is impressive in any profession, what strikes me as unique about Clutch is that it has been the same lineup the entire time. For over 25 years, this band has been making groundbreaking music with the same group of guys that were friends in a Maryland high school. That is almost unheard of. Couple that with the unique sound and classic musicianship, as well as the fact that the band has been doing it on their own terms with their own label for over a decade, and you get a really intriguing story.
But Clutch is more than a unique story. These guys rock. They have a unique sound that transcends genres and are an insanely talented group of musicians. I have been following Clutch since I first heard “The Mob goes Wild” on an episode of Viva La Bam (don’t judge me) when I was a senior in high school. Later that year, the band released Robot Hive/Exodus behind the single “10001110101” which may stand as one of my favorite singles and albums of all time, respectively. I will always hold that album in a special place. But thirteen years and five albums later, Book of Bad Decisions may be the bands best work to date.
The album starts in classic Clutch fashion with “Gimme the Keys”, which is an uptempo tune that features stop chords, intricate riffs, and unique effects behind grungy, bluesy vocals. The bluesy vibe certainly carries over into the album’s lead single “Book of Bad Decisions” which also incorporates amazing uses of silence and really unique mini bass-solo riffs.
These themes run throughout, as with any Clutch album, but Book of Bad Decisions features some unique approaches as well. “Vision Quest” has a really unique “Ramones meet James Brown” feel- it’s got a driving punk riff with an upbeat soul kicker. “Spirit of ‘76” is a bass driven track with a solid lead line layover that transports you straight back to 1976 and the dominant Black Sabbath. “Ghoul Wrangler” is another really cool stylistic mashup that gives the vibe of ZZ Top or classic Southern rock, while “Hot Bottom Feeder” seems to channel the great Led Zeppelin themselves.
Another unique, attention-demanding track is “In Walks Barbarella”. This song has a captivating intro that is upbeat and features keys and horns. I caught myself turning up the volume about 10 seconds in to this track during the first listen- I couldn’t get enough. It has a real disco/funk feel behind the bluesy grunge heart of the record and has heavy, driving riffs that push the song through.
My favorite track on the record is “Emily Dickinson” which has an amazing bass riff in the intro and a heavy, yet groovy chorus. Also noteworthy is “How to Shake Hands”, the track that falls between these two great tunes to round out my favorite stretch of the album. This track is unique and has spoken vocals and is likely a very intelligent diss to the narcissistic man-child that is “leading” our country.
For 25 years, Clutch has been underrated. These guys have been flying under the radar, right on the cusp of really breaking through. Clutch reminds me of one of my favorite projects, Them Crooked Vulture. The music is incredibly deep and purposeful. Every track has a meaning. And every track is a display of a level of musicianship that is rarely seen. Do yourself a favor and check out Book of Bad Decisions, available now via Weathermaker Music!
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