CLUTCH — The Elephant Riders (review)

CLUTCH — The Elephant Riders album cover Album · 1998 · Stoner Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Unitron
"Could'a been a ladybug on a windchime, but she was born a Dragonfly"

It has always been difficult for me to talk in writing about albums I love dearly, and communicating how much something connects with me on an emotional and personal level. Especially an album that isn't just a favorite album, but the all time favorite. For years my all time favorite album was Helstar's Burning Star, an album that I still love a whole lot and is still among my favorites, but not the top. I never thought it'd ever be topped, I was sure it would always remain. The passion and songwriting on that album is fantastic, but The Elephant Riders kept climbing and climbing as time went on and speaks to me in so many different ways.

I've always really liked The Elephant Riders since I first heard it, but I didn't know how much I would come to love it and how much it would inspire me directly as a songwriter and completely change my idea of what lyricism and songwriting mean.

The Elephant Riders has this very homey production, warm and inviting like a nice fireplace on a brisk day. It brings out Dan Maines's fittingly warm and fuzzy basslines to their fullest, and Tim Sult's guitar tones are simultaneously massive like the elephants they're riding and clean like freshly fallen leaves. Jean-Paul Gaster's drums ignite the total groove that all instruments thrive in. Clutch perfects a blend of southern blues and metal that was almost lost when the stupid idea that blues can't make metal came about. These riffs curbstomp that idea. I used to be more closed-minded and didn't like brass instruments, but the horns in Muchas Veces, hidden track 05, and especially instrumental Crackerjack completely changed that with the trombone adding a lot to these already fantastic songs and helped me start to appreciate these great instruments.

This whole album and band brings me nothing but pure joy, but vocalist Neil Fallon inspires me like no other musician has. He can sing beautifully melodic like the 70's blues and metal vocalists that probably influenced him, and also forceful and rough like his grungy and sludgy contemporaries. His lyrics and songwriting though, that's where he has no equal. Abstract, but not in the philosophical sense, this is passionate poetry. These are words and phrases that work and flow perfectly together, even if they don't make any sense. The vocals become another instrument, and as a songwriter myself, taking that approach to lyrics is incredibly fun and rewarding. The lyrics that open this review, from the closing The Dragonfly, are among my favorites on display, but the whole album is a treasure trove of fantastic rhymes and storytelling.

I've rambled enough, art doesn't get any better than this.
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