Clutch at this point can unarguably be seen as something of an ‘old reliable’ at this point. It can be argued that the band just do not release bad albums these days and pretty much if you’ve liked any of the band’s recent albums, you are probably going to like this one.
That being said, they aren’t too repetitive and they do evolve over time and each album has its own identity and each cluster of albums has a certain flavour.
The last two albums; Earth Rocker and Psychic Warfare have been two of the bands hardest, most streamlined, direct albums to date and this time the band seem aware that this may not have been what fans of the older albums like Elephant Riders and the self-titled wanted, so this time around instead of battering you over the head with the hardest songs straight away, they open up with some more laid back Stoner Rock song. Its a bit more armchair than thrill-ride for the first three tracks, for those of you who were missing the band being more hazy. Combined with the less polished, looser production style (that hi-hat sound and muddier guitar tone has something in common with their Jam Room album to my ears).
That’s not to say it is a full return to the old days; its more of a balancing act between that, the recent material and also pushing new ground. There are a few tunes on here which retain the breakneck rocking and clear focus of Earthrocker; ‘Weird Times,’ ‘Paper & Strife’ and the Tony Iommi wetdream of ‘A Good Fire’ keep things direct and punchy.
In terms of newer ideas, ‘In Walks Barbarella’ sounds exactly like its most memorable lyric ”weaponised funk” – it is full of full on 1970s Starskey & Hutch sounding funk overtones.
Lyrically, the record is just as fun and interesting as ever, with some brilliant lines, such as in the pre-released ‘How To Shake Hands’ where Neil tells us that when he becomes president, ”First thing I’m gonna do is go for a ride on a UFO, put Jimmi Hendrix on the $20 bill and Bill Hicks on a 5-note,” as well as ‘Hot Bottom Feeder’ which is basically a recipe and when the Neighbours in ‘Paper & Strife’ are reportedly ”clearly raging communists.”
The last few albums have had man-of-the-match awards for drummer JP Gaster and Frontman Neil Fallon, but the real hero of this album is guitarist Tim Sult, who seems to on a mission to display as wide a range of styles of guitar solo as possible. There’s so many different vibes to his leads and solos on the record, from melodic to flashy to effects-laiden and everything in between.
Because Clutch are so consistent, it is really just a matter of personal taste which albums are your favourites. This album is no disappointment. For my tastes, its somewhere in the middle, better than for example Jam Room but not quite as transcendent as say, the last two albums, or the fan favourites like Blast Tyrant, but fairly close and absolutely worth checking out. There are many songs on here I really can’t wait to see live and wouldn’t ever want to make a Clutch playlist or compilation without ever again. If you aren’t sure if the album is for you, check out ‘Ghoul Wrangler’ – the music, production, eccentricity and lyrics should give you a good idea what you are in for.