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Clutch - Book of Bad Decisions

Label: Weathermaker Music
Format: Download
Released: 2018
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 9/10

Some bands peak early and burn out. Clutch, on the other hand, launched like a rocket twenty-five years ago, and they’re still climbing. Their latest, “Book of Bad Decisions,” is among their best - - possibly their best overall? - - and will surely cement their legacy as consistent and dependable. Clutch are an American-made institution. (Seriously, do you know how many new bands I hear and reviews I write for band that have been influenced by Clutch?) Their single-malt-gruff, rusty fuzz guitar distortion, barrel-gut, blue-collar, blues-based, no-pretense, whimsical, erudite, masculine sound has been emulated by many, but there will only ever be one Clutch.


One of the songs on “Book” that’s sure to have people talking is “In Walks Barbarella,” - - which is such a classic Clutch song title. The song is a straightforward groove beast, but with a killer horn section - - a first for Clutch. From the first second, it works its way into your feet, neck, and backside, without ending up sounding like the Black Crowes. I also really dig “Emily Dickinson,” “Gimme the Keys,” “Spirit of ‘76” (a light-hearted, apolitical fantasy about running for President of the U.S.A.), “Hot Bottom Feeder,” “H.R. is in Control” (SPOILER: The “H.R.” in the title is Hieronymus Bosch), Lorelei, and the title track - - but “Book” is pretty sure-fire throughout. Consistent and dependable; see above.
This isn’t exactly the raw, buoyant, boyish sound of their early days, but the steam-shovel power is still there, along with the “rock out, keep it simple” motif. The songs on “Book” are the music of men who’ve moved on from guzzling longnecks to drinking craft beers and aged bourbon from glasses.
Clutch’s sound and image, from singer Neil Fallon’s bridge troll voice and beard on down has always come from a place of masculine power - - not unlike Ernest Hemingway’s writing. Unlike Hemingway, though, Clutch come across as woke men of the late 20th/early 21st. They’re rugged, but laid back, non-judgmental, and not hung up on assumptions. Smart, witty, savvy, educated, but unencumbered with angst.
Leave your worries behind and enjoy this “Book of Bad Decisions,” which is bound (no pun intended) for many “Best of 2018” lists. Pour yourself a beverage and wash it all down.

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