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Clutch “From Beale Street to Oblivion” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Has it ever crossed your mind how bands like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin released albums so frequently and so consistent that it absolutely crushes the modern three year turn around many bands consider safe? It seems that Clutch has put an album out every year since the mid 1990s (though while not entirely true, per se, it still seems like it, right?), and each time around it seems that the band gets better and better. In 2005 Robot Hive/Exodus was without a question one of my favorite albums – it had moments that were surprisingly hard, but much of it sounded characteristically Clutch. But even what’s been considered symbolic of the band in terms of its sound has changed drastically; groovy jam-metal, stoner rock and now bluesy metal could have all helped identify the band’s sound. But now it seems a solidification of ideals has occurred as the band now focuses almost exclusively on a sound well versed in blues, rock and the spirit of those same groups that put out those stellar pieces of work year after year in the 1960s and 1970s.

Diversification is something that often hinders such bands – for when, say Fu Manchu puts out album after album of hard driving hooks they are deemed repetitive and tired. So, when the band tried to switch up the pace of things with its 2004 album Start the Machine, adding a modern metal aspect to its sound – fans buried the band citing over-diversification as the major flaw. With this album Clutch may not be attempting to reinvent itself, but in doing so the band plays to its crowd of fans who have followed it wherever it has taken them. Despite starting off strong, with the most aggressive track on the album “You Can’t Stop the Progress” From Beale Street levels off and maintains a consistent volume and pace; something that has hindered previous efforts.

While the album’s single “Electric Worry” is a spectacular track, boasting a strong sound similar to that of “The Mob Goes Wild” from the band’s 2004 effort Blast Tyrant, what stands out as the best indication of where the group is musically is “White’s Ferry.” It starts out sounding like Black Sabbath – but not really, more like Pantera’s 1994 version of Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan.” Its slow, staggering introduction is put to rest as drummer Jean-Paul Gaster beats in what many would expect from the band: a rolling bass-driven lick-heavy production. But it’s not done so in haste, as the track unexpectedly reverts back to its origins. Singer Neil Fallon spouts off “Wizard of tickets is always glad to charge a pilgrim’s fare. Jubilee’s generally early. Let’s take the country air” in a way that somehow helps it make sense and the band again returns to the deep, soulful trenches of the home its made for itself within the field of rock music.

It’s a horrible thing to say, but it’s not overly intellectual rock – the album’s straight forward intentions won’t intrigue most casual listeners and From Beale Street can even be overlooked as one of the better Clutch records in recent memory. All that aside, if you do in fact know and enjoy the band going into the a listen of the album you will come out of it even more in love than ever.