Hey hey now, what's that smell?
Just like cornbread done too well.
What you need you know I got.
So hands up, who wants to rock?
A band hailing from Maryland that transcends the borders of punk, hard core, and roots rock. Formed in the summer of 1991, the band members are Neil Fallon (vocals), Tim Sult (Guitar), Dan Maines (Bass), and Jean Paul Gaster (drums). The four found themselves in post-high school lives, undecided on where the future would take them. They decided to form a band.
When asked about his free form writing style, Fallon says, “ I always try to tell a story. I make up some kind of fiction and then act like I know what I am talking about. I don’t really know about UFO’s or monster trucks, but I would rather tell a story instead of trying to sing about my life or how I feel.”
Driven by staggered drumming, melodic groove-heavy bass, thunderous guitars, and a voice so rough you'd think it had been drug across a gravel road, Clutch is at a glance an acid rock throwback, a sing-along bar band, and a good time old-fashioned gospel revival all rolled into one. Angry? Hell yes they're angry, but you know after the first few tracks they're not angry at you. The band creates a rhythmic canvas of emotion for the lyrics to span pop icon insanity, as in ‘Walking In The Great Shining Path of Monster Trucks’…
'… Well I rolled Jesse Helms like a cigarette
and smoked him higher than the highest of the minarets
Jesse James couldn’t even handle it
started looking at me like I was Sanskrit
Cause in the Great Shining Path Of the Great Monster Trucks
There’s no such thing as beginners luck
I’m the Dirty dozen for the price of one
Get it while it’s hot. Going, going, going, gone!'
…or to deliver an all out tongue lashing to the entire rap-rock community in ‘Careful With That mic…’
'So tell me, When you took the practice scholastic aptitude test
Did you know the answers or did you guess?
You rely on gimmicks to amuse your fans
And act all urban to jack up your sound scan
What’s the matter with you? How come you rhyme monosyllabically?
Is Atrophy shrinking your entire vocabulary?
Your style’s like garbage cans, meant to be taken out on a weekly basis
Ever since your first record you’ve been in a state of suspended animation
You look like Snuffaluffagus and Australopithecus
Me Cray, you Abacus…'
What I consider to be one of the band's great strengths has also been their biggest commercial hurdle. Growth. Expansion. Evolution. Refinement. Clutch is a body in motion, a creature of change. Each album reflects well the moment in its creators' lives. The problem with this? None at all if you are open minded and enjoy watching someone attempt to improve upon their craft. The record companies seem to think differently, though. Although all of their albums have had solid sales, Clutch has released seven albums on five labels.
Pitchfork, October 1991, Inner Journey Records
This seven inch is one of the rawest and most aggressive assortment of tunes I’ve ever heard. Relentless and bludgeoning, Fallon’s lyrics were already masterfully narrative on tracks 'Juggernaut' and 'Far Country'.
Passive Restraints, 1992, Earache Records
Far tighter and decidedly better crafted than its predecessor, this three song EP showed a lot of growth. Very enjoyable, and full of energy.
Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes, and undeniable Truths, 1993, EastWest Records
This full-length album is work of absolute genius, and featured (I believe) the bands only video for ‘A Shogun Named Marcus’. If you like hard, fast, and fun this comes highly recommended.
Clutch, 1995, EastWest Records
Most of the tracks are slower, with a more solidly rooted rhythm. I believe the band began smoking a lot of pot here, as reflected in songs like ‘Spacegrass’, ‘I have the body of John Wilkes Booth’, and ‘Big News’. One surprise on this album is the track ‘Tight Like That’ where Fallon professes his love and faith in God.
The Elephant Riders, 1998, Columbia Records
The music is more complex, and there’s an instrumental while Fallon spins yarns everywhere else on the CD. He seems to be able to write about an exhausting variety topics, such as the demise of the C & O Canal in the title track, lost love in ‘Muchas Veces’, and holiday meals gone awry in ‘Wishbone’. This is also an interactive CD, displaying part of an unreleased video for ‘Soapmakers’, links to their website, and a scrapbook of writing by Fallon explaining each song, and its relevance to his life. Rumor has it that Columbia bought Eastwest solely to own Clutch's record contract.
Jam Room, 1999, River Road Records
This album was self-released after they were dropped from Columbia. Unfortunately not many people know of its existence. The song ‘Who wants to Rock?’ has become the bands introduction to every show I’ve seen since its release. This album was looser than Riders and seems to have no teeth, no bite. I love this album, nonetheless. ‘Gnome Enthusiast’, ‘One Eyed Dollar’, and ‘Release the kraken’ are true masterpieces.
Pure Rock Fury, 2001, Atlantic Records
By far this is their best album to date. Clutch has been reborn as the power-rock band you always felt them capable of becoming. Truely, they are masters of their trade. They paint vivid pictures lyrically with ‘The Great Outdoors’ and ‘Brazenhead’, and bowl you over with musical thunderstorms like ‘American Sleep’ and ‘Frankenstein’. This CD is also interactive and shows live footage from a 2000 show at the 9:30 club in Washington, DC featuring the songs ‘Spacegrass’ and ‘Smoke Banshee’.
Clutch is the perfect example of a band playing for their enjoyment rather than trying to live up to anyone’s expectations. I have been to numerous concerts, ranging from the Waccaho Grange Hall in Hagerstown, MD way back in 1992 to last year for the Pure Rock Fury tour at the 930 Club. They are one of the most explosive spectacles I’ve ever seen, and one of the most original bands I’ve ever heard.
Additional information can be found on the band's official website http://www.pro-rock.com