Although the musical connection between bands St. Vitus, Kyuss and Clutch may be as loose as Abi Titmuss, there is at least one strong correlation between them: the command of an unprecedented level of respect and influence among their musical peers, which rarely transfers beyond the underground venues in which they thrive.
Leaving the issue of commercial success aside, the one reason said bands are so adored by their fellow musicians is simple: there are/were bloody good at what they do. For Clutch it seems consistently producing a sincere, raw and down right unique fusion of kick ass stoner rock set on a bedrock of blues and classic riffage comes as naturally as a President’s ability to fib.
The addition of a new member to the band for the latest opus Robot Hive/Exodus comes in the ever dubious keyboard department. No such worries for Mike Schauer however, who more than proves his worth within opener The Incomparable Mr Flannery with his Hammond skill and trickery contributing perfectly to what is a fuller, funkier and all together even better Clutch.
Gullah provides some classic groove mixed with droning keys which still leaves room for Mr. Fallon’s gravely voice to shine atop the mix, although I’ll be damned if I know what: “No doubt Vishnu missed you, then Kali kissed you” is supposed to mean! 1000111001 is, as far as I can tell world’s first attempt at turning binary into a sing along anthem, which Neil achieves, well just because he can! Lyrically the album is yet again draws on a melting pot of influences with religious imagery taking a central theme: the aforementioned Hindu deities, Jesus and the Holy Ghost all make an appearance within the first ten minutes!
Mice and Gods questions cloning and mankind’s desire to play God more eloquently than most rock bands out of the deep south and as with all his songs, even if Neil Fallon is having a rant, he does so with such verbal dexterity and sly wit that you can almost excuse his stance on most issues. Although his treatment of Christianity appears carefully directed at the White Middle American interpretation of it, lets just hope he’s not judging the George Bush endorsed scriptures by that alone.
Elsewhere it seems a little easy for a geeky bearded man to take a swipe at the shallow nature of the modelling and fashion industry, but once again you have to be paying close attention to catch the references – even if you’re not, you can resort to you just nodding along furiously to what is yet another groove laden slice of wizardry.
As for album fillers, they’re few and far between, although Never Be Moved and Small Upsetters only sit so averagely as a result of the strong tunes either side of them, and two slightly less scorching numbers on what is their second album in so few months can surely be permitted.
Land of Pleasant Living takes a trip (of both kinds!) back to about 1973, Pink Floyd era prog rock with moody Hammond drones interspersed with yet more crunchy riffage for the hook. Gravel Road is perhaps the most unique and catchiest blues/rock hybrid on offer, and comes across as a full on jam between The Soggy Bottom Boys (O Brother Where Art Thou?) and AC/DC at their peak.
Closing with an acoustic cover of Howling Wolf‘s Who’s Been Talking serves to cement in the bands flirtation with old school blues throughout Robot Hive/Exodus, but knowing Clutch the next LP could just as well be interspersed with bursts of thrash metal!