By Johnny Firecloud at 9:34 AM Wednesday, March 20th 2013
What the hell has gotten inside of Clutch? These are grown-ass men in their forties, swinging like an ’86 Mike Tyson on their new album Earth Rocker – eleven tracks of pure piston-pumping juggernaut uppercuts of devastating excellence. No fat, no hesitation, just raw muscle and smirk.
Neil Fallon and Co. didn’t just hash this one out in the studio, opting instead to plot out every moment before entering The Machine Shop in Belleville, NJ, where they would finish the process with veteran producer Machine. This resulted in two finished products: one fully realized demo album (a treasure trove for future reissues, no doubt), and the resulting polished offering hitting our ears like a stampede of ripped & rabid giants on that crazy Limitless drug.
Behind the scenes, Earth Rocker is also a result of an inordinate amount of preparation for Clutch. “In the past, we would go into the studio and write,” says Fallon. “That never worked out to anyone’s satisfaction. It was really important to do a lot of pre-production, knowing exactly what we would be doing when we went into the studio. It was crucial that we did all that prior to hitting record.”
“It was so mapped out that we weren’t even in the studio together. You had to take a lot on faith. But once you know a part inside and out, you can move on to worrying about performance. If you’re trying to remember it, then you’re not playing from the heart — you’re playing from the brain. That always sounds stale on playback.”
Guitarist Tim Sult’s assessment that this may be the strongest Clutch record to date is a hefty diagnosis, given the excellence we’ve seen on albums like Robot Hive/Exodus, Pure Rock Fury and beyond. They’ve set the bar at impossibly high levels, and jump-kicked the shit out of it. Reigning in the jam band meanderings of some of their previous offerings, the new LP is a lean uptempo flex, from the ominous airlock explosion of Crucial Velocity to the ominous warning shot of The Face, to the dizzying indignation of Cyborg Bette, in which narrator and iron-throated vocalist Fallon laments the power his android lover has over him.
Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster has further developed his remarkably diverse style, with kudos interpretations of percussionists he admires. The loping style of Earl Palmer’s swinging eight notes was a direct influence on Earth Rocker, and you can hear Thin Lizzy drummer Brian Downey’s shuffle stylings given a nod in the album’s sole curveball, the downtempo Gone Cold. The track is a haunting cousin to Regulator from Blast Tyrant, spawned from a confidence the band established while playing a series of acoustic sets over the past couple years.
At Machine’s urging, the band established the same energy arc on record that their remarkable live show delivers. As a result, Earth Rocker captures a live essence that carries the listener through a balanced journey, an album full of A-sides that finds Clutch at their finest. Superior programming. Superior hardware. Superior firepower. Find this album and blast it righteously.