Clutch are a band that have made some of my favorite music over the past 23 years as a band. They have sort of became the Grateful Dead of hard rock in recent years. As the band continues to produce timeless music, their fans continue to travel along to each show, often times trading tapes of previous shows and sharing stories of past experiences. It’s honestly a great atmosphere and the band delivers a great and new experience each show, hardly ever playing the same set.
Recently, I caught a show and heard some new songs that were meshed in with some classics. (You can read that review here if you like) I was intrigued by what I heard, so when I was asked to review the new album Earth Rocker, I jumped at the chance. As usual, I’ll hit the highlights of the album. It’s up to you to discover the rest of it. This is Initial Thoughts. The band is Clutch. The album is Earth Rocker. Let’s do this!
The title track leads off the album. It’s also the first single. Shying away from some of the slower, blues-driven songs of the past couple albums, this song has the band on full sonic assault. Earth Rocker is one of the heavier songs released by the band of late, and I truly hope that it’s a good indication of the direction of this album. Bassist Dan Maines told me that this was the heaviest Clutch record that they’ve made, so we’ll move on and find out!
Crucial Velocity is up next. When I saw the band on their recent Holiday tour in Lexington, KY, this was one of the new songs included on the setlist. Of the four new songs that were played that night, Crucial Velocity really stood out for me. Hearing the recorded version only solidifies what I heard that night. With a hat tip to what is regarded as the first recorded distorted rock and roll song, Rocket 88, the band delivers a song that slams down the gas pedal and never looks back. This is full-on, balls out, middle finger in the air rock and roll.
D.C. Sound Attack brings back a little of the blues from previous albums. It’s probably more so the harmonica than it is the actual groove though. Tim Sult’s guitar tone is simply dirty, gritty and nasty on this track. Jean-Paul Gaster’s cowbell work and the groove that Dan Maines holds down will make this song a fan favorite for a long time to come. Vocally, Neil Fallon delivers his rapid attack story telling and polishes it all off with a chorus that no one can resist. This song is an adventure and one of my favorite tracks on the album thus far.
Gone Cold is a very interesting track. It sounds as if it could have been a part of Basket of Eggs, which was the bonus album released with Blast Tyrant on their own Weathermaker Records. It’s a stripped down song with a nice slow groove played by Dan Maines. Jean-Paul is playing with brushes, so the drums are a bit muted and Tim’s guitars are very spacey. Neil’s vocals in the verses are slow, thick and are delivered in a near narration. Add in the acoustic guitar solo and you have a really simplistic sonic palette, but with very distinct sounds from each instrument.
Another of the songs played live in December was Cyborg Bette. I was really anxious to hear this one as well, as it was my second favorite from that night, next to Crucial Velocity of course. After hearing the recorded versions, I have changed my mind. This song is like seeing Clutch live. I don’t think I’ve heard a recording capture the bands live energy. Producer Machine, in my opinion, has done just that with Cyborg Bette. The energy is terrific and I can’t get enough of this song. I’ll declare this song my favorite on the album.
Listen, there are many things that I love about this album. I love the attacking guitars on Mr. Freedom. I love the groove on the track The Face. I love Dan Maines bass tone on Book, Saddle & Go. I love the stories told in both Oh Isabella and The Wolfman Kindly Requests… Those two songs are my favorite lyrical tales spun by Neil on this album. I love the fact that Tim is playing more solos and I love the fact that Jean-Paul continues to be one of the best, most unique drummers on the planet. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this album.
Machine has helped Clutch capture their essence on Earth Rocker. Much like Blast Tyrant before it, Earth Rocker delivers a twisted tale, timeless music, and yet another chapter in what is becoming a legendary career for the band. Do I agree with Dan Maines that this is the heaviest Clutch album released yet? Not exactly, but I don’t dispute that it is certainly heavier than the last three albums; Robot Hive/Exodus, From Beale Street to Oblivion, and Strange Cousins From the West. And for those that feel that this could be Blast Tyrant II, this album is not as polished as Blast Tyrant. It is definitely more raw and aggressive, which is absolutely fine by me!
With the band having just kicked off their tour, you will definitely want to do yourself a favor and catch them at a show near you. I’ll include some tour dates below.
Clutch North American tour dates:
Sat 03/09/13 – Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works
Sun 03/10/13 – Sauget, IL @ Pop’s
Mon 03/11/13 – Little Rock, AR @ Juanita’s Cantina Ballroom
Tue 03/12/13 – Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom
Thu 03/14/13 – Dallas, TX @ Palladium Ballroom
Fri 03/15/13 – Austin, TX @ 1100 Warehouse – “SxSW Festival”
Mon 03/18/13 – Colorado Springs, CO @ Black Sheep
Tue 03/19/13 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot
Thu 03/21/13 – West Hollywood, CA @ House of Blues
Fri 03/22/13 – Tempe, AZ @ The Marquee
Sat 03/23/13 – Las Vegas, NV @ Hard Rock Cafe On the Strip
Sun 03/24/13 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
Tue 03/26/13 – San Francisco, CA @ The Regency Ballroom
Wed 03/27/13 – Reno, NV @ Knitting Factory Concert House
Fri 03/29/13 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox At the Market
Sat 03/30/13 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater
Sun 03/31/13 – Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory Concert House
Mon 04/01/13 – Missoula, @ Wilma Theatre
Tue 04/02/13 – Spokane, WA @ Knitting Factory Concert House
Wed 04/03/13 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
Fri 04/05/13 – Calgary, AB @ Flames Central
Sat 04/06/13 – Saskatoon, SK @ The Odeon
Sun 04/07/13 – Edmonton, AB @ Union Hall
Tue 04/09/13 – Winnipeg, MB @ Garrick Centre
Wed 04/10/13 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
Thu 04/11/13 – Des Moines, IA @ Wooly’s
Fri 04/12/13 – Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
Sat 04/13/13 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Orbit Room
Mon 04/15/13 – Syracuse, NY @ The Westcott Theater
Tue 04/16/13 – New Haven, CT @ Toad’s Place
Thu 04/18/13 – Toronto, ON @ Sound Academy
Fri 04/19/13 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
Sat 04/20/13 – Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head Live!
Wed 05/01/13 – Richmond, VA @ The National
Thu 05/02/13 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5
Fri 05/03/13 – Clifton Park, NY @ Upstate Concert Hall
Sat 05/04/13 – Portland, ME @ State Theatre
Sun 05/05/13 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues Boston
Tue 05/07/13 – Charlotte, NC @ Amos’ Southend
Thu 05/09/13 – Saint Petersburg, FL @ State Theatre
Fri 05/10/13 – Fort Lauderdale, FL @ Revolution
Sat 05/11/13 – Lake Buena Vista, FL @ House of Blues
Sun 05/12/13 – Pensacola, FL @ Vinyl Music Hall
Tue 05/14/13 – New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
Wed 05/15/13 – Atlanta, GA @ Center Stage Theater
Fri 05/17/13 – Philadelphia, PA @ Electric Factory
Sat 05/18/13 – Columbus, OH @ Crew Stadium – “Rock On the Range Festival”
Sun 05/19/13 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue
Tue 05/21/13 – Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall Ballroom
Thu 05/23/13 – Lincoln, NE @ Bourbon Theatre
Fri 05/24/13 – Pryor, OK @ Catch The Fever Festival Grounds – “Rocklahoma Festival”
Sat 05/25/13 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues