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Hands Down, the Illest Ventriloquist...

By John Wiz | Music | August 5, 2009 |

By John Wiz | Music | August 5, 2009 |

clutchcover.jpgClutch: Strange Cousins From The West
[Weathermaker Records]

Metallica. Megadeth. AC/DC. Guns N’ Roses. Aerosmith. U2. The Rolling Stones.

Read that list again. You should notice two things. First, this list reads as a veritable “Who’s-who?” of rock radio. On any given day, at just about any moment, you can find one of these bands playing ad-nauseam on a local radio station. The second thing to notice? Each one of these bands is still together and should have stopped releasing new music long ago, as each member is well beyond his prime. Everything released now is nothing more than any one of these bands doing their best imitations of what they think they used to sound like… Back when they were cool. Back when they were young. Back when they were still relevant.

Such is not the case with Clutch. On their 9th studio album, the boys from Germantown, Maryland bring us Strange Cousins From the West, and after 18 years they bring the violence just as well as ever. Strange Cousins From the West also represents the band’s initial offering from their brand new in-house label, Weathermaker Music. It’s the type of effort that makes you feel good about buying an actual CD: from the production value on the album, to the actual fun in opening the packaging, this disc is an experience. Clutch, with this record, further proves what few other artists can. A CD can be an experience both visually and tonally. The packaging screams everything you need to know about the band; highly stylized, but no-frills. What you see is what you get, and with Clutch, you always get a journey.

Neil Fallon (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Tim Sult (lead guitar), Dan Maines (bass), and Jean-Paul Gaster (drums) sound as good as ever. Unlike other bands who have been together this long (or longer), they continuously grow and develop their sound, drawing from metal, bluegrass, stoner rock, sludge metal, and blues to create this groovy, melt-your-spinal chord sound, guaranteed to make your body rock and your mind blow.

Strange Cousins
… punches you in the face right from the get go with a pounding swamp rock banjo intro to the opening track “Motherless Child” and doesn’t let up until it busts it last nut in your ear with “Sleestak Lightning”, leaving you used, sweaty, covered in fluids and thankful for the whole, glorious 62 minute experience. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. No one tells a story like Neil Fallon.

Musically, Strange Cousins... is everything the passionate Clutch listener has come to expect from the band, without it sounding repetitive or recycled a la AC/DC or Aerosmith. Granted, musically Clutch is the furthest thing from mainstream, eschewing the atonal banality of 75% of today’s rock releases. They swing for the fences with the beat of every drum and the strum of every note, without making it feel like they are trying to work. The best way to describe this album is to call it a sixty minute long earworm. Unlike their most recent efforts where there were 2 or 3 stand-out songs surrounded by a collection of solid efforts, Strange Cousins... is a hearkening back to the band’s early days, without sounding dated. For the passionate fan, this album feels like a culmination of what they were trying to achieve with Robot Hive/Exodus or their last disc, From Beale Street to Oblivion. And for the casual listener or someone who has never given the band a good listening, it’s the perfect starter album.

Lyrically, this puppy runs the whole gamut. We get straight up story telling with “Abraham Lincoln” and tripped-out, what-the-fuck-was-Neil-smoking craziness, blending today’s war-plagued headlines with Greek mythology with “Minotaur.” On my first listen, I found myself anticipating what was next; anxious to hear what else the band could give me. And they gave it. And I took it, and loved it.

John Wiz (aka PissBoy) is a fan of all things that don’t suck and can be found at random moments giggling at shiny things in the streets of Wilmington. When things are dull he’s a whore for corporate America while trying to be a special make-up effects artist.

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TK Burton is the Editorial Director. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.