Review: Clutch – Earth Rocker


On March 19th, the 10th studio album by the formidable Clutch will hit the shelves in the US. (there really aren’t many actual “shelves” left to hit, are there? That’s a lament for another time.) While their style has morphed since their debut album in 1993, they have always remained true to themselves and stayed distinctly “Clutch”, which happens to be the most common answer given by fans when asked to describe their music.

For their latest effort, Earth Rocker, The Maryland natives have stripped it down a little and sped it up a lot. This is the tightest, most aggressive Clutch album in quite some time. Bassist Dan Maines says of the album “Overall, we wanted the album to pick up the pace a little bit. Songs developing at a faster tempo led to a very straightforward songwriting approach.”

The production on Earth Rocker is superb, with a full deep sound that lets you feel every bit of drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and Dan Maines’ rhythm section. Neil Fallon’s vocals are larger than life when they need to be, and properly subtle in all the right places. Guitarist Tim Sult has reigned in a lot of his jamminess and written some really catchy, addictive riffs (see “Cyborg Bette” and “Unto the Breach”)

One thing that has remained is the unique way that Clutch can take a rock song and infuse it with the blues and make it rip while played at full speed, or sound like sitting on a porch in the Mississippi delta when slowed down (as heard on the Basket of Eggs EP on their Blast Tyrant reissue).

Rather than condense this into a short review, I decided to give you a track-by-track rundown of the album. The bottom line here is, after 20 years, Clutch has shown no signs of either stopping or stagnating, opting to grow and spread their musical wings like a fiery phoenix reborn. Earth Rocker is a must.


Earth Rocker,  Track by Track

Earth Rocker – The first single off of the album, this one sets the tone for the album. Faster, more aggressive, and a fun song. Seemingly a look back on their music career, and reacting to the scene today.

Crucial Velocity – Dark, heavy Black Sabbath-y intro leading into a hard-hitting chorus and back again. I love the “Rocket 88” reference (Rocket 88 was not only an Oldsmobile, but also an r&b song from 1951 that many consider to be the “first rock and roll song”)

Mr. Freedom – This one has a Blast-Tyrant kind of feel to it, as Neil rails against and calls out the super-political, holier-than-thou know-it-alls next door.

D.C. Sound Attack – One of my favorite tracks on the album, This one kicks right in with a harmonica-led serious groove, and has a real bluesy jam vibe. Political overtones abound..

“Hellhounds on your trail
What a pity
But that’s the price you pay
Shaking hands in necro city”

Then we get the nod to the hometown, when the go-go cowbell comes in, before going back into the bridge and the chorus.

Unto the Breach – Far and away my favorite of the album. Can’t remember the last time we heard Clutch just put their foot the the floor, getting up to ramming speed, and Unto the Breach is IT! Tim’s guitar even resembles an engine in this one, and it just revs.

Gone Cold – After the blistering previous song, they bring things down a few notches with Gone Cold. Sort of a Tom Waits or Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds vibe on this melancholy ode.

The Face – The guys really seem to be on a tear about the state of music today.

“1000 Les Pauls, burning in a field
What rabid rabid religion poisons their mind?”

Pretty serious, yearning tone in this one, the emotion of the song coming out not only through Neil’s voice but from every note of the music. You get the feeling as if Clutch is high on a mountaintop, overlooking the vast wasteland that is the popular music of today.

Book, Saddle, & Go – Heavy, brooding opening to this wild west tale, with Dan Maines’ bass thundering like an elephant and JP’s drums setting a galloping rhythm.

Cyborg Bette – Another fast mover with an excellent groove. Is Neil singing his song of scorn to a cyborg girlfriend, or a real woman that is as cold as a piece of machinery? We may never know.

Oh, Isabella – Pretty cool moving riff throughout the song. Not quite as energetic as most of the album, and a little jammier than the rest. Almost a Tom Morello-ish guitar tone on the solos.

The Wolfman Kindly Requests… – Another mid-tempo groover, another riff that’s gonna get stuck in your head. Gains some power almost 2 minutes in, then changes around like a windy road…faster, slower, jammier, tighter, yet the song never loses its way.


2 Responses to “Review: Clutch – Earth Rocker”

  1. […] line-up has included Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, Dan Maines and Jean-Paul Gaster. Read a full review on Heavy Uber Alles. Did not […]

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