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Clutch - Book of Bad Decisions (Album Review)

Friday, 07 September 2018 Written by Jon Stickler

Despite being poster boys for gritty guitar licks, quirky lyrics and bluesy, boozy funk-rock, Clutch have never achieved the mainstream attention that their self-sustaining march over the years should merit. Even though 2015’s superb ‘Psychic Warfare’ broke them through to an extent, there remains a boatload of charm in the Maryland groovelords’ way of modestly churning out one outstanding record after another. The gloriously titled ‘Book of Bad Decisions’ doesn’t buck that trend.

Recorded in three weeks at Sputnik Studios in Nashville, Tennessee with producer Vance Powell, recognisable for his work with Seasick Steve, the White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys and Chris Stapleton, this ambitious LP traverses stoner-rock, Delta blues, hardcore punk, boogie rock and DC funk across 15 tracks, while capturing the visceral power of a Clutch live show. “I wanted it to be real organic,” Powell said.

Clutch created a lasting formula in 1993 with the release of their debut LP, ‘Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes & Undeniable Truths’, wherein their unconventional song-stories began.

Never a band to take themselves too seriously, their witty style and offbeat subject matter continues to flow on ‘Book of Bad Decisions’, ranging from poets to Presidents and recipes to rock 'n' roll. Even the album’s title and cover (an American bald eagle with its back to us) carries a tongue-in-cheek message.

Vocalist Neil Fallon bellows “Gimme the keys and get the hell out of dodge” during the opening track; the band hurtling out of the traps with an explosion of fuzzy boogie-woogie while telling the tale of a row over a stolen microphone at a show in Texas on one of their first tours.

Fallon later declares with the impassioned delivery of a fired up preacher that ‘I’m gonna kiss all the babies, maybe kiss the mommas too,’ while looking to run for President on the fast-paced How To Shake Hands, which traces its roots back to Ry Cooder’s John Lee Hooker for President. By the way, anyone who wants to put Jimi Hendrix on the $20 bill and Bill Hicks on the five gets my vote. In Walks Barbarella struts in from out of the blue as one of the record’s highlights and features - for the first time on a Clutch record - Parliament-esque horns giving an extra dimension to this giddy comic sci-fi fantasy.

Clutch’s penchant for the bizarre and unexpected is again present within Hot Bottom Feeder, a playful song that doubles up as an actual recipe for crab cakes. Incidentally, if you’re left puzzled by Fallon’s ability to turn anything into a song, check out Green Buckets from the band’s 1998 album ‘The Elephant Riders’. It's about recycling bins.

Guitarist Tim Sult lays down a bluesy lead for the moody ballad Emily Dickinson, with some slick Hammond organ work in the background. Meanwhile, the rhythm section of drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and bassist Dan Maines shines in maintaining the perfect balance of thunderous groove and blues-funk on the head bopping Sonic Counselor, a nod to the band’s faithful Gearheads. A Good Fire rouses memories of hearing Black Sabbath for the first time, something everyone can relate to, before the eerie chords of Lorelei bring a darker tone to the album’s final moments.

For nearly three decades Clutch have been a model of consistency and a band that fans of rollicking heavy rock can rely on. Although running for just under an hour, which maybe a little hard to digest for some, ‘Book of Bad Decisions’ is without doubt one of their finest records to date. It’s the sound of a true American rock institution in full flow and proving, again, that they fucking rule.

Clutch Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue December 18 2018 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Wed December 19 2018 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Thu December 20 2018 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy
Fri December 21 2018 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Sat December 22 2018 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham

Click here to compare & buy Clutch Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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