Neil Fallon effortlessly rattles off quips and rhymes, somewhere between poetry animated, and madness illuminated; somewhere between ridiculous and genius, and all together the question on every Gearhead's lips is “how does he come up with it?” The backdrop, Doom and Groove Rock, tripping over Blues riffs, and a hint of Southern Rock;  Black Sabbath meets  ZZ Top, meets Frank Zappa, although who needs a comparison with Clutch as much icons in their own right; with over twenty five years in the business. Clutch is Clutch.

 “Straight out of the mothership. Weaponized funk” This is how Clutch’s “Book of Bad Decisions” unravels, and grips you from the first page to the last. The story is a psychedelic trip through the workings of Fallon’s mind. An artistic departure from previous albums, however as strong a contender, with many stand out, power songs, which will no doubt, become anthems for years to come. The overall sound on this album is more organic, raw, and what you would expect from a live performance. This is due in part, to the album having been produced by four time Grammy winner, Vance Powell, notorious for also working with the likes of The White Stripes, and Chris Stapleton.  Powell has a unique sensibility and drive to get every element just right. In fact Powell spent time on the road touring with Clutch, to better understand their live dynamic, in order to make a record which would be as true to them as possible. This being the twelfth studio album for Clutch it is just that, and rivals to become a classic for any Clutch fan.

Highlights from the album for me are:

“Gimme the Keys” a psychedelic fringed, Punk Rock road trip, already a sure fire hit with Clutch fans.

“Spirit of 76’” also written in a similar vein as “Gimme the Keys” with a more free form and space like tone.

“In Walks Barbarella” complete with a horn section, and Parliament- Funkadelic style. Advice from a father to a son about life, and the crazy hay day stories, the father tell could only come from the genius of Fallon. This may in fact be one of my favorite songs off the album with some of the cleverest lines. I can’t help enjoying how the story is told. “Space Trucking ain't what it used to be” is one of my favorite Fallon quips, here.

“Emily Dickenson” is another favorite. The song opens up with a Rocking roadhouse riff, Fallon bursts out in song. The lyrics and story line based on poet Emily Dickenson are just as clever; however the instrumentals pull me further into the song, and the hard driving Blues riffs carry you through the song from start to finish.

“Lorelei” does not start off sounding immediately like other Clutch songs I have heard. It is of a slower tempo, it is darker building up to the chorus where Fallon belts out “Lorelei”. This emotional scream takes you through the chorus, and then the song slows again as the storyline builds a dark and gloomy tale. The juxtaposition between the lines of the song and the chorus delivered in contrast to each other, give the song a feeling much more macabre then other Clutch songs.

A bit of a controversial song among Gearheads is “Hot Bottom Feeder” this is a love hate for long time followers of the band. However in my opinion the song lacks none of the lyrical quick wittedness that Clutch fans tend to expect, and though it may seem a bit campy to some, they are the ones missing out on the songs genius.  These are the Clutch fans that must not have been to Southern Maryland. The song is a comedic reference to the “promised land” of steamed crabs and crab cakes, the very land Clutch hails from.  The song illustrates the crab cake capitals obsession. Living near the area the song makes perfect sense, and the video for the song leaves me salivating for Maryland's best lump crab cakes every time. Unless you lived in The Delmarva peninsula it won’t have the same meaning.

Clutch even dedicated a song to the Gearheads, on this album; those diehard fans that follow Clutch to every show, and can be seen at Earth Rocker, Clutch’s own festival, each year.

“Sonic Counselor” is the new anthem for Earth Rocker. It perfectly describes Clutch’s ability to bring everyone in, and to have them groove, in sync to their music. This ability to go to a concert where everyone is on the same page, caught in the moment, and lost in the music; this is the church of Clutch; and Fallon describes it perfectly. Clutch has built their fan base over the years by doing just as the song suggests.

“Book of Bad Decisions” is jammed full of some of Clutch’s finest moments, and Fallons best poetry. The album pushes the envelope in places, subtle deviations from what fans expect, but that is exactly what a good band is supposed to do. Clutch has done a masterful job here; bringing Gearheads what they have come to love from the band, but pushing what we think and know about the band, and the art they make.  Clutch has done what perhaps they set out to do to go further into the creative plane as artists, but to create something which is entirely genuine, and perhaps even more authentic than the last. “Book of Bad Decisions” as a Gearhead would say is Clutch A.F.

kristin welcomeComment