The Maryland four-piece have been living by the above maxim since the beginning of the 1990s. Each song that the band recorded over the years has been done with the intention of being blasted out live in a spit-and-sawdust venue to a well lubricated crowd. And to state that the 11 songs that comprise their latest record will go down a storm in a live environment is a massive understatement.
Over the last couple of releases, Clutch took the dusty road down to the Delta and rejoiced in the bluesy origins of rock music. But while the blues are ingrained in every musical juke and jive as well as Fallon’s characteristic vocals, Earth Rocker has more in common with the unstoppable rock ‘n’ roll landslide that was 2004’s Blast Tyrant. And like this record, there is a perfect fire lit under each one of Clutch’s power players, and because of the upsurge in energy, the overall pace of Earth Rocker is electric.
Jean-Paul Gaster, who is a painfully underrated drummer, harks back to the Buddy Rich’s of yesteryear, in that he hits hard, yet his sleight-of-hand makes each song swing. And with the exception of the chilled-out “Gone Cold,” which acts as a welcome breather, the rest of the songs bristle with tangible force because of the rhythmic drive of Gaster, not to mention the fluid playing of bassist Dan Maines.
“Unto The Breach” is punk rock in its approach; the band evidently returning to their roots. While Fallon’s Herculean vocal hooks and the infectious, upbeat grooves that the band dole out with ease on “Crucial Velocity,” “Mr. Freedom” and “D.C. Sound Attack” place these three songs amongst the best Clutch have ever written. Guitarist Tim Sult’s incisive solos are also an album highpoint; particularly his dazzling lead-work on “Oh, Isabella.”
And although Fallon has toned down the wild imagery of his lyrics over the years, his storytelling ability has not diminished and he continues to sound highly animated; as his vengeful delivery on “Book, Saddle & Go” will attest.
Because of these thrilling individual performances, Earth Rocker has an ample supply of flair and fury. But it’s on “The Wolfman Kindly Requests” that Clutch, as a collective, really hit that rock ‘n’ roll sweet spot. The rhythm section pounds, Sult’s biting riffs are unleashed, and Fallon howls wildly over the music, bringing Earth Rocker to an exhilarating end.
There must be high octane in the waters of Maryland, as there is clearly something other than pure rock fury fueling these perennial road-dogs at this stage in their lives. Let’s be thankful for whatever is driving this band forward, because it sure as hell makes Earth Rocker kick harder than a mule on steroids and, consequently, makes Clutch the best rock ‘n’ roll band around.
(published March 19, 2013 on Weathermaker Music)