Earth Rocker is the tenth full-length album from Clutch, the unique American rock band (who’s style fits vaguely around the Stoner Rock end of the spectrum without fitting perfectly in). It was produced by Machine and released on Weathermaker Music in 2013.
If you haven’t heard Clutch before, but like any sort of Hard Rock or Metal music you should consider checking them out. They are the sort of band that once you hear, you love forever, absolutely consistent in quality and inspiration both live and in the studio. If you even suspect you may like them, I highly recommend that you pursue that interest, you’ll probably discover your new favourite band.
Sometimes the band seem like a no-surprises purist rock band, designed for a bar full of working men, but then sometimes they’ll break out a metallic edge for a few riffs, sometimes they take a turn into funk, soul or blues territory. It all blends perfectly together, into some of the most memorable and attention grabbing music you’re likely to hear. Two of the main adjectives you’ll see associate with the band are ‘personality’ and ‘character.’
Neil Fallon, the band’s iconic frontman continues to impress the listener with his dramatic and charismatic vocals, which evoke both a zealous preacher-man and a down-to-earth work colleague at the same time, full of flair and personality, but without feeling like an inaccessible rock star.
The lyrics, always interesting on a Clutch record, are a mixture of moods and tones, from clever and poetic to dumb rock fun, funny, intriguing and insightful, often within a single verse. The album also has a surprisingly political tone in places, balanced of course with things like a song about dumping your Robot-girlfriend for a newer model. As always you’ll find little lyrical gems that you just can’t wait to tell somebody about.
Clutch aren’t just a one-personality band however, each musician is a master of his instrument, there are bass lines and drum fills that will stick in your head for days just as easily as any quirky lyric or memorable vocal hook. Some of J.P Gaster’s little touches on the bells or floor tom will bring a smile to your face, and Tim Sult throws in little leads here and there that elevate the songs to new levels. Dan Maines ties it all together masterfully with big grooves and solid clunky drive.
If you are a fan of the band already, you may wonder what direction the band have taken this time around. Is it further down the path of ‘Pigtown Blues’ and ‘Basket Of Eggs,’ is it a return to their earliest Hardcore roots, or is it a radical departure into Lounge Jazz?
The album opens with the storming and bombastic one-two punch of the Title-Track and ‘Crucial Velocity,’ the former sounding like a mixture of ‘Pure Rock Fury’ and ‘Power Player’ and the latter sounding like a vague mixture of ‘Minatour’ and ‘Mercury’ without repeating either. It’s a solid statement of intent. Together, they set the tone for the whole album quite nicely, that being Clutch’s characteristic personality filled music, with a few of the lessons they learned exploring their bluesy latter day albums, added to the top of the bombastic and masterfully produced sound and style of their Blast Tyrant and Robot Hive period. Elsewhere, ‘Unto The Breach’ and ‘Book, Saddle And Go’ keep up that fire and energy.
The band do add some balance with ‘D.C Sound Attack’ which would fit well into either of this album’s predecessors, since it containing harmonica, cowbells and a bluesy Five Horse Johnson (a band with whom Clutch frequently collaborate) feel in general, as well as the fine acoustic track ‘Gone Cold’ which is a haunting and hypnotic slow number that provides a great counterpoint to all the fast rock songs.
You could sum it up as being one of Clutch’s most direct, fast and hard hitting albums to date, but that would be all ignoring the variety on offer from the acoustic track to the proggy direction at the end of ‘Oh Isabella.’ You could say it’s a step away from their bluesy work, but that would be ignoring things like the blues tinge on the fast riff of ‘Unto The Breach’ and the harmonica on ‘D.C Sound Attack.’ You could say it’s a return to Robot Hive and Blast Tyrant, but it’s a lot shorter and more focused.
Overall, its just a strong set of songs. A damn, damn strong set of songs. Its lean, memorable and there is nothing in the way of filler. It all flows well together, the levels of musicianship are high, it sounds fantastic due to its marvelous production job and it has a lot of character. If you like Clutch already it is a must-have, it’s a fresh and vital sounding blast of Clutch doing what they do best with enough of a twist not to sound like they’re repeating themselves. If you are new to the band, it would be a great place to start. If you buy this album and love it, all the better, because you’ve got about two decade’s worth of almost flawless back catalogue to fall in love with afterwards.
**Oh, and if you found this review by search engine, when you discover it again on Amazon it is me posting it. It hasn’t been copied and pasted off here by a stranger, I post my reviews on Amazon as ‘Gentlegiantprog “Kingcrimsonprog.”’ So please don’t unhelpful-vote it because you thought it was stolen from me.**