If only there were more bands like Maryland’s Clutch. Fiercely individual yet bringing together so many different musical styles, Clutch have never been an easy band to classify and that has always been a major part of their appeal. That, and the fact that they have spent over two decades making some of the finest, grooviest hard rock in the business.
But even the greatest of bands can have their off days, and although previous albums “From Beale Street to Oblivion” and “Strange Cousins from the West” had their moments in terms of displaying that old Clutch magic, as whole albums they felt a little plodding, a little too much like a band having gone as far as they could in one direction and not knowing where to go next. Luckily album number ten, “Earth Rocker”, puts that right by showing off a band reinvigorated and sounding harder and faster than they have done for quite a while.
The title of the album should be clue enough as to how it is going to sound but just in case, the song of the same name opens the album as if laying down a challenge for others, possibly even the band themselves, to take up. “If you’re gonna do it, do it live on stage or don’t do it at all” hollers frontman Neil Fallon, and sounding as streamlined and fat-free as they do, it seems that Clutch have regained their mojo.
It’s a vibe that carries through the album’s eleven tracks, and although the blues influence that the band have leaned towards over their last couple of albums is still there it isn’t as blatant, with the harmonica-led excellence of ‘D.C. Sound Attack!’ dripping with whiskey-soaked attitude but rocking as hard as anything by Black Label Society. Elsewhere, though, the band play it totally straight and rock out as only Clutch can, like on the balls-to-the-wall ‘Crucial Velocity’.
This album doesn’t really need the hard sell as Clutch have furrowed their own path throughout their career and will do just want they want to anyway, and any true music fan who can appreciate good music with a genuine soul will get on just fine with “Earth Rocker”. It may be a little too early to say whether it’s Clutch’s best album but it’s certainly up there with their best work, and releasing an album as consistently outstanding and exciting as this after twenty-three years says a lot about Clutch’s uniqueness. Highly recommended.