Album Review: Earth Rocker by Clutch
Posted by RiffRaff
Really? How does Clutch do it? For a band I’ve been a rather huge fan since I got my hands on their eponymous titled 2nd album the Maryland quartet has only slightly disappointed me once over the course of another 9 albums (while I dig it enough, I feel that their previous album Strange Cousins from the West, was a drop in overall song quality), various EPs, and a multitude of live records. I can think of no other band that is able to maintain such a long running, strong consistency to the quality of their music and at the same time keep a consistent style and sound that somehow evolves from record to record (well Opeth maybe, but that is debatable). And so, here we are at album number ten, and to be honest, I was a little worried that maybe they peaked on From Beale St. to Oblivion and would just churn out good, but not f’n great albums like Strange Cousins… from there on in. Boy, was I wrong. The aptly titled Earth Rocker is an absolute beast of an album and serves perfectly as the landmark album number ten from the hard rockers. Acting almost as a self homage to themselves, Earth Rocker takes the many quirks from all of the bands previous records and rolls them into one big fattie and a side of brews leading to one of Clutch’s absolute strongest records to date. You’ll find the fat grooves of Elephant Riders, the humor of Pure Rock Fury, the heaviness of Transitional Speedway League and the self titled album, the songwriting strength of Blast Tyrant, the oddness of Robot Hive/Exodus, and the bombast of Beale St. All with that trademark Appalachian blues sound Clutch has trademarked and performs so well. If this overly long opening paragraph isn’t enough to convince you to buy Earth Rocker, read on brother (sister), read on.
“What’s this about limits? Sorry, I don’t know none! What’s this about some Db limit? Sorry, I can’t hear none!” Not only do those first sung lines of the opening title track set up the ethos for the whole record, it sets the stage (which they go on to say they will ‘bring it to the stage’) for copious amounts of bombast and high energy, blues rock that is to follow for the rest of the record. So, get your beers ready, cause on the next track, “Crucial Velocity”, Clutch is going to strap you into their ‘Rocket 88’ and blast away into the lands of groove powered by the raw energy stored up from that opener. The ride is one hell of a trip and the gents remind you that they can hit as heavy as they did in their youth with some crushing riffing and even crushing-er drumming. When the speeding rocket reaches its destination at the Land of Groove, where Clutch have spent many years inhabiting, Rev. Neil Fallon heads straight for the podium to preach one of his well-loved, humorous political sermons as the rest of the band revels in the power of the groove that this strange land exudes. He’s a bit annoyed at all of the freedom preachers that seem to have been preaching yet not doing a thing other than running their mouths, wearing pins, and sticking bumper stickers on cars. He puts them in their place with his “Mr. Freedom” speech and now that the serious business is out of the way, it’s time for beer and fun.
Cranking the groove and blues up to 11 “DC Sound Attack!” simply rocks the Hell out of the Land of Groove calling on the jam tendencies of the band as well as that lovely harmonica playing that always injects such a great dynamic into their songs. This stop is sure to be one of the most remembered landmarks on the trip as the boys deliver their performance in spades. That electricity pours into their next tune “Unto the Breach” where they revisit that unique feel of their Blast Tyrant record. And after all this relentless activity, they guys need a bit of a breather. But a breather doesn’t mean a drop in quality, but a trip into soul of Clutch’s blues.
“Gone Cold” may very well be one of my all time favorite Clutch tunes as it stares deep into the sapphire core of the band. Lazing along at a slow, stoned tempo Neil rhythmically narrates the verse lines in a voice that oozes with nothing but pure coolness. After hearing this, screw wanting Morgan Freeman or they guy from that game Bastion to narrate my life, I want Neil Fallon’s voice on this tune to do it. Paired with the Appalachian blues, this part on the journey straight up sent chills down my spine, and I’ve returned to this stop more times than I can count since the first time Clutch strapped me in for the Earth Rocker tour.
Now that everyone has had their rest, time to kick it back into 5th gear into the Land of Rock N’ Roll as Clutch give an ode to the 6 string and rock and roll. Neil’s lyrics have always been thought-provoking, intelligent, odd, and very tongue-in-cheek, and “The Face” looks to take a spot among his best words as he sings of fields of Les Pauls and Jazzmasters who were martyred for the sake of keeping the spirit of rock and roll alive. Genius stuff IMO. And for closing quartette of tracks, “Book, Saddle, and Go” “Cyborg Bette” “Oh, Isabella” and “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…”, this ode to rock and roll feels more poignant as these final 4 tracks blaze forward and reaffirm the wonderful feel of good ol’ rock and bring this amazing Earth Rocker trip to an end.
You may see this review as a bit biased giving I am such a huge fan of the band, but do know that I also hold the bar for them very high, so nothing below absolute excellence would get such a glaring recommendation from me and for me to call it one of Clutch’s very best albums carries heavy weight coming from me. Front to back every track rocks, is memorable, and there isn’t a single tune I find myself even considering hitting the skip button on. If you are a Clutch fan, go now, get this, you’ll love it. For those who want some damn good partying and drinking music, Earth Rocker will server more than good (as will just about any other Clutch record). And for those that never heard the band before, you can’t go wrong with an Earth Rocker purchase (or any Clutch album for that matter). I guarantee you will be in blues rock bliss with this album. So to sum everything up, Earth Rocker straight up, with no frills whatsoever, rocks more socks off than foot fetish p0rn. Get it! Enjoy! Peace Love and Metal!!!
On a side note: I absolutely love the album cover. Ain’t it cool as hell?