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From Beale Street to Oblivion

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  • It’s a long-standing tradition for rockers to turn to the blues as they get older and wiser. The maturing Clutch, masters of twisted and subversive heavy rock, have embraced the blues as the next step in their creative development. This release consolidates the new sounds developed on the last Clutch album, and these rocker dudes, who have done mind-boggling things with every style from hardcore to metal to funk, have fully incorporated rowdy blues rock into their singular musical vision. Songs like “The Devil & Me,” “Electric Worry,” and “Black Umbrella” (which even includes a harmonica solo) are clearly descended from traditional blues, with Clutch sounding like an especially anarchic Savoy Brown. And since Clutch will always rumble headlong into new musical territories, this album features several progressions, like the spooky “White’s Ferry” and the slowly rumbling “Opossum Minister.” But rest assured that we’re still in gearheadland, thanks to the classic pummeling Clutch crunch of “Power Player” and “Mr. Shiny Cadillackness,” which are crucial links to the band’s heavy past.

    While the fellas may be mellowing out a little bit, their playing is still top-notch, as heard in Jean-Paul Gaster’s piledriving (and surprisingly nimble) drumming and Dan Maines’ dexterous rumbling basslines, while Tim Sult has seamlessly converted his traditional vertiginous stoner-metal riffage into this album’s bluesy chord progressions. Here we are also witnessing the great benefit of the addition of keyboardist Mick Schauer (now on his second full album with the band), who successfully adds slightly arcane and off-kilter Memphis licks to the existing Clutch attack. And regardless of the ever-changing influences that Clutch bring to their sound with each album, the band will always remain unmistakable thanks to the unique vision of Neil Fallon, whose vehement vocals and shrewdly subversive lyrics remain the band’s calling cards. This time around, Neil seems to be zeroing in lyrically on the pathetically simplistic ideals of an under-informed American society, as seen in tracks like “You Can’t Stop Progress” and “When Vegans Attack,” which both skewer know-it-all protestors who don’t understand what they’re protesting (that’s my educated guess on the always inscrutable Neil, as it were). Clutch are maturing impressively, and while they’re not yet your serious dads, they’re at least your eccentric rockin’ uncles. [~doomsdayer520~]

    Posted on December 26, 2009