Album Reviews
Band: Clutch

Title: Book of Bad Decisions

Label: Weathermaker Music

My first ever gig was wa-a-ay back in 1974, an excited 12 year old going to see THE band of the moment, Mud (Tiger Feet, The Cat Crept In, Hypnosis), supported by Bilbo Baggins, and from that day onwards, I was well and truly hooked on music, seeing bands/singers as diverse as Japan, Saxon, Gary Numan, AC/DC, erm ... Leo Sayer and Chas 'n Dave (RIP Chas).  Amongst many, many others over the years.  In that time, no matter how much I've enjoyed such shows, only 3 frontmen really stood out and made sure I couldn't keep my eyes off them, they were that good.  The greatest of them all was the dear, late great, King (or should that be Queen!) of them all, Freddie Mercury, Scott Weiland (Velvet Revolver, STP) and Neil Fallon of Clutch, who looks as if he calmly has the audience in his hands one moment, then as if he's ready to leap off stage and chin everyone the next, such is his demeanour  whilst singing.  Sadly, the first two are no longer with us, but with Fallon at the helm, Clutch seem to go from strength to strength, and have recently released their 12th studio album, 'Book Of Bad Decisions', which has been produced by Grammy Winner Vance Powell, and it sees the band firing on full all cylinders throughout 15 tracks that were recorded with the band in one room, which gives the sound a 'live' feel, from the kick down the doors, fuzzy guitared, ball-bustin' opener 'Gimme The Keys' where Fallon bellows 'and get the Hell out of Dodge' (and means it!) to the final track, the Black Sabbath-esqued, dark 'n moody, riffed to the hilt 'Lorelei', showing us all that this band ain't going anywhere just yet, as they mean business!

Mind you, Clutch isn't just all Brian Fallon, mind you, no dear reader, there's a fantastic tight unit behind him, Jean-Paul Gaster (Drums), Dan Maines (Bass) and Tim Sult (Guitar) and what they do together makes you think that there's more than just 3 instrumentalists here, such is the power that explodes out of the speakers.  I mean, take 'Spirit Of '76' for example.  It's grinding guitars and thudding drumbeat sounds very grungy, as if Soundgarden and Alice In Chains have been put in the same room and been told to 'go for it', such is the immense sound, which is held back slightly on the title track, where Gaster's drums, along with the bass from Maines give the track a bluesy swagger, helped along by a fine solo via Sult.  

'Are you cool? Well. I'm cool' claims Fallon on the Presidential claiming, tongue in cheeked 'How To Shake Hands', relentless skull-crushing mayhem from the band as they tear through the song as if they've got Trump in front of them and they're giving him his last rites as President (hah!) before Fallon takes over! Another song that has lyrics that will raise a smile or two is the funky, horn-saturated hip-swayer 'In Walks Barbarella' the chorus starting with the spaced out lines 'Defcon tractor beams, Weaponized funk', surely hints of Parliament creeping in here 'n there, though on 'Vision Quest', the honky-tonk piano gives this raucous track a more New Orleansy vibe.

'Weird Times' takes no prisoners from the off, the Punk styled manic drumming vocals and riffage grabbing you by the throat and tightening it's grip as the song flows, no, that should be tsunami's along at a whiplash tempo, then suddenly slowing down the groove a notch or two on the psychedelic- tinted 'Emily Dickinson', the bands tale about this 18th century, reclusive poet, who's poems mainly dealt with Death or Immortality, so right up the band's street, then!  'Sonic Counselor' has a lighter mood around it, almost foot-tapping territory for this band, as is the shuffling-drummed barnstormer 'A Good Fire', which has Fallon reminiscing about when he first heard Black Sabbath and where it was and what happened that day, which just goes to show how Fallon can form a song about the simplest things and make them work as only Clutch can work 'em, as they do on the gut-punching, rambling 'Ghoul Wrangler' and 'H.B Is In Control', the H.B. being the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, so figure that one out! 

As far as song titles go, 'Hot Bottom Feeder' certainly gets yer thinking 'what the Hell will this be about?!'  The slide intro and sleazy vibe doesn't really give anything away, but reading the lyrics ... it's about the recipe for crab cakes!!  End of.  'Paper & Strife' is a no-nonsense, straight up rocker, some might say 'filler', but if that's so, what a 'filler' it is, it's better than most band's main tracks, proving just how good this band from Maryland really are at, as some say, stoner-blues, for one description.

'Book Of Bad Decisions' will no doubt sell in the ship loads, but take my advice ... do NOT put this album on in the car if you decide to go for one of those leisurely Sunday afternoon drives with the Mrs, as it will turn you from the mild-mannered Reginald Molehusband to driver from Death Race 2000 in about 10 seconds flat.  Be warned!!

Review by: Robb Baldwin

 

Tracklisting:

1.  Gimme The Keys
2.  Spirit of '76
3.  Book of Bad Decisions
4.  Hot to Shake Hands
5.  In Walks Barbarella
6.  Vision Quest
7.  Weird Times
8.  Emily Dickinson
9.  Sonic Counselor
10.  A Good Fire 
11. Ghoul Wrangler 
12. H.B. Is In Control 
13. Hot Bottom Feeder 
14. Paper & Strife 
15. Lorelei

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