Psychic Warfare: Clutch is Here, the Party’s Saved
No one tells good stories about the nice parties where everything went smoothly. The parties you really remember, the ones you recall at the bar, were an off-kilter mix of hilarious, insane, and terrifying. Someone rode a golf cart into the quarry, or did a shot of snake venom, or bumped into their history teacher at the S&M club. Miraculously, no one’s life was ruined, but the possibility is ever-present in the retelling. You barely escaped that night. It was awesome.
For Clutch, Psychic Warfare is that party. Coming right off of 2013’s Earth Rocker and carrying much of the grizzle and punch that made that record so powerful, the band has crafted an album that is fun in its ferociousness. The infectious and danceable numbers are made more entertaining by the danger in them, and the force and attitude of the album are validated by the fact that it’s all in the name of a good time. The result is the perfect soundtrack to the Devil showing up at your housewarming with a bottle of tequila.
Clutch albums tend to lean either towards jam band crunchiness or hard rock grind, and Psychic Warfare is discernibly the latter. Even the more countrified moments thereon, like the instrumental “Doom Saloon” and the cowbell breakdown in “A Quick Death In Texas”, have a sense of urgency and overdrive to them. There’s a distinct sharpness to Tim Sult’s guitar this time around, and beardo overlord Neil Fallon sounds as feral and desperate as ever. In that way, the record is unlike Earth Rocker, which was laudably accessible. Psychic Warfare takes the listener to tougher places, assuming they’ve heard the last record and want to go further, harder, louder.
After the Kubrickian intro track “The Affadavit,” things get moving quickly with “X-Ray Visions,” a charging mix of ‘60s paranormal conspiracy lyrics and rusted-chrome muscle rock. “Firebirds” brings the dance, powered by a hip-popping rhythm and a gigantic sing-along chorus, but it’s the southern-fried, Eddie Harris-style misfortunes of “A Quick Death In Texas” that will have people stripping on the tables. “Sucker For The Witch” and “Your Love Is Incarceration” are two fun classic rock tracks, one fast and loose, the other mid-paced and thick, both about being hung up on the wrong type of woman. The former comes straight out of Salem (Neil gets me good when he sings “It goes against my Catholic upbringin’!”) while the latter is embodied in ankle cuffs and watchtower spotlights.
The smoky guitars of “Doom Saloon” give way to “Our Lady of Electric Light,” a melancholy biker ballad with a touch of vampirism that will make even the hardest outlaws bow their heads. After that comes “Noble Savage,” a rush of unhinged Motörhead worship, and “Behold The Colossus,” a determined marching song reminiscent of Thin Lizzy’s “Emerald” and filled with an equal amount of rock mythology. “Decapitation Blues” is a solid number, and has some incredible lyrics, but doesn’t possess the same hook as the tracks around it, including “Son of Virginia,” a slow and sad electric blues song with a ton of heart and little madness tossed in.
Maybe that’s what sets this record apart from the its predecessor the most. While Earth Rocker seemed to be about unity and strength in rock and roll, Psychic Warfare delves into the volatile mix of traditions and folklore that make rock music a force not to be trifled with. It would’ve been easy to write a chill, easily-swallowed album after declaring spiritual revolution; instead, Clutch dive into the fray, ready to bust heads and laugh in the face of complacency. So while some might find Psychic Warfare’s edge a little too confrontational, those defending the faith will have a blast with the album’s born-to-lose attitude and gold-toothed grin. After all, a little danger makes for one hell of a party.