Clutch’s Earth Rocker: So What? So Let’s Dance!
In my personal Heaven, Clutch would be the house band every night. Sure, I love some satanic blackened whatever the fuck, but Clutch’s rollicking brand of muscle rock is so damn good, I could listen to it over and over, every night, and feel fantastic about myself, and after I leave this world, that would be the ultimate reward. They are a band that makes me want to drink, work out, write, smoke, draw, go for a walk, pump my fist, dance my fucking ass off. If Slayer is Satan, Clutch is Greek god of wine Dionysus—still crazy, still dark, but endlessly fun and totally human. On their tenth full-length release, Earth Rocker, the band has distilled its sound down to its very essence, packing everything you like about this band into one kicking, screaming, cackling, ass-kicking rock record.
An immediately noticeable aspect of Earth Rocker is its speed—even the slowest tracks on the album march forward with a tangible sense of drive (given the band’s recent tour schedule supporting acts like Motorhead and Thin Lizzy, one can’t be too surprised). The production takes a few songs to truly hit home, with guitar and drums thick but frighteningly sharp and vocals that are huge without being too up-front. Everything meshes very organically on Earth Rocker, making each song an entity rather than four performances slapped together. Not to speak poorly of the technical prowess here—the record is chock full of infectious riffs, legendary fills, and field hollers that will make you crack a smile without even knowing it.
The opening title track is an immediate Clutch classic, the babbled laugh present in the chorus reminiscent of old timers like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Follow-up “Crucial Velocity” is a superb song for outrunning the cops, and references Ike turner’s “Rocket 88” as it throttles forward. Neil Fallon’s lyrics are hillbilly poetry; a line like “Unpredictable times call for a reliable friend” is begging to be tattooed on someone. “Mr. Freedom” and “DC Sound Attack” are both funky anti-military numbers, the latter with a glorious moonshine-soaked harmonica line in the opening section. “Unto The Breach” is a battle cry with heavy helpings of Frank Zappa, while “Gone Cold,” the album’s ballad (if you can call it that), haunts the listener with jazz-infused calm. “The Face” is a mid-paced pro-rock anthem featuring some of the best lyrics in the band’s career (“One thousand Les Pauls burning in a field/What rabid religion poisons their minds?/One thousand Jazzmasters thrown into the sea/What measure of madness governs their time?”). “Book, Saddle, & Go” has a solid country-fried gallop to it, while “Cyborg Bette” is a breakneck hip-thrusting sex machine running on gasoline and Old Crow. While closer “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” feels a little aimless, the pirate-ish swing and psychedelic solo of “Oh, Isabella” is mournful, rowdy, endearing, empowering.
For Fallon, Sult, Maines, and Gaster, Earth Rocker is a triumph, a heartfelt expression of the band’s whole twenty-year career. If that weren’t enough, it’s also a groovy fucking rock album, full of all the devil-may-care attitude and smirking zeal that bands like Sabbath and Zeppelin seemed to emanate just as effortlessly. I could listen to this record on repeat for a long, long time—and, if there’s an afterlife and I’ve played my cards right, I’ll get to do just that.