‘Strange Cousins From The West’
I hate records like this for two reasons:
1) They suck.
2) They appear as such a generic approximation of the genre they’re emulating that it destabilizes your conviction that any record from said genre is quality. Consequently I’ve been trying to purge myself since hearing this turd all week with Mudhoney and Melvin’s albums.
So, yes, as you’ve probably guessed Clutch are a grunge rip-off. I can’t honestly say I’ve had a lot to do with them through the years, but the names come up a few times so I figured they couldn’t be too rough on the ears.
First mistake: a nine studio LP discography does NOT guarantee quality. Law of diminishing returns, anyone? Apparently, as long as you once had an audience, there’s still a market for you to keep churning out synonymous crap. It would just be cruel to say there’s anything that really damns them from the get go; as musicians they’re all pretty proficient and the songs at least flow pretty well . Their downfall is that Clutch are simply the sum of their parts: a wobbly blues inflection, occasional weirdo time signatures, solidly belted vocals, a bit of wah-wah. In short, a caricature of grunge. Shit, if I didn’t know better I’d say it was a castrati Soundgarden, and not just because the dude can hit high notes.
This is what pisses me off most about Clutch: at least if they tried something different and failed miserably they might have got off one or two interesting tracks at least. I’d rather hear something that aims for the sky and hits the gutter than walks the straight boring road of mediocrity. I mean lets face it, they’re not heavy enough for Soundgarden, not volatile enough to be Nirvana, not progressiveve or angry enough to rock a Tool album. Atop that, the album is out of its time, and not in the good Frank Zappa way. At least if Clutch had released this back in the day they might have merely passed for Jejune bandwagon-jumpers. As it stands they come off as fogies trapped in an alternative music time warp.
Admittedly the production is pretty sparse. But that’s never held back anything that was truly worth its salt (see Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’ or Sonic Youth’s ‘Daydream Nation’) Clearly, after eight other albums the’ve worked out that they want to wear plaid and dance around Big Muff pedals the rest of their lives. Whatever man, it’s your gig, I guess. I suppose at the very least, the bass is pretty coherent, which is better than most grunge bands could get away with.
There are a couple of songs that make a half hearted attempt at being interesting. ‘Freakonomics’, assuming that this is named after the book, has a nice rolling drumbeat and ‘Motherless Child’ has a cool slide guitar intro (In 7:8 – shock horror!), but, eh, window dressing. Grow up and cut your hair, dudes. Even Pearl Jam know the 90’s are over.
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