10 October 2015

Clutch - Psychic Warfare

Now, this is an album I’ve been looking forward to. I’ve been a fan of Clutch ever since I bought their self-titled second album on a whim twenty(!) years ago. They gradually evolved their sound from abrasive Hardcore to a smoother, bluesy Stoner Rock, all the while maintaining their own recognisable sound, mainly due to Neil Fallon's throaty roar. They had started to lose their way somewhat on later albums such as From Beale Street To Oblivion (2007) and Strange Cousins From The West (2009). Whilst both had moments of brilliance on them, they also had some filler and meandering tracks that detracted from the good bits. Then, in 2013, they released Earth Rocker and everything changed. It featured a much simpler stripped back sound that sounded much more vital and energetic, dispensing with the acoustic guitars and blasting out solid Stoner Rock. The band sounded completely re-energised and invigorated.

Psychic Warfare takes the band down the same rocking path. After a short spoken word intro the first track, X-Ray Visions, bursts forth in head nodding glory and is possibly the first time I've had a line about telekinetic, prophetic dynamite stuck in my head. There's also a nice bit in the bridge when Neil introduces the band by their star signs, it's all very NKOTB. Firebirds follows with a rolling riff that reminds me of the one in Earth Rocker, the title track of their last album. It highlights Neil’s talent for telling stories within his lyrics, albeit baffling ones. It’s as equally as lively as X-Ray Visions and has a chorus just as catchy.

A Quick Death In Texas, slows down the pace a little. It’s a more relaxed Southern Rock style song and tells the tale of someone who sleeps with a woman unaware she has a particularly vengeful husband. It’s another good song and, yes, it has an infectious, singalong chorus.
Sucker For The Witch begins with a lone bassline before the rest of the band kick in and we’re back in stereotypical Clutch territory, While on the face of it the song appears to be about a wholesome Christian chap with a weakness for sexy goth ladies I think it’s a bit more metaphorical than that and is possibly about temptation on the whole and whether or not it’s actually a bad thing.

I wasn’t keen on Your Love Is Incarceration when I first heard it but after a few listens it wormed its way into my head and is one of my favourites now. Like, A Quick Death In Texas, it’s less breakneck than the other tracks and has a bouncy funkiness to it, When listening to it I find myself just singing the groin thrust bit of the chorus “Your Love is, UGH!, Incarceration". Not great when I’m at work. 

(L-R) Tim Sult (Guitar), Dan Maines (Bass), Neil Fallon (Vocals), Jean-Paul Gaster (Drums)
Doom Saloon is a short instrumental that does nothing other than serve as an optional extended intro for the next song, Our Lady Of Electric Light. It’s the big ballad of the album and has a Deep South, Bayou-like feel to it. It sounds like lot like a Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds song, the fact that Neil sounds like Nick Cave singing in tune doesn’t help. It’s not my favourite song on the album but it does offer a welcome change of pace.
It’s soon replaced by the shortest, and most ferocious, song on the album: Noble Savage. It barrels along joyfully and is summed up perfectly by the chorus line of “I’m an unapologetic lifer for Rock and Roll”. There’s a blistering guitar solo from Tim Sult too. Great song.

Following that, Behold The Colossus loses some of its impact, which is a shame because it’s a good song and has plenty of mythological imagery, presumably also metaphorical, that you could imagine Dio spitting out. Decapitation Blues doesn’t quite live up to its excellent title, and is the closest Psychic Warfare comes to filler. It’s not bad just not as good as what's gone before and easily forgotten.

The final song is a slow, ominous monster called Son Of Virginia. It’s by far the longest on the album at around 7 minutes. It starts with some atmospheric picked guitar twangs but it finishes with some nice, heavy Doom riffs juxtaposed with sliding lead guitar. It’s a momentous end to the album if you don’t include the hidden track that’s similar to the spoken word intro. I might be wrong but it sounds like a sample from the Kevin Smith movie, Red State.

In conclusion then, Psychic Warfare is a no-nonsense rock album and up there with their best. Clutch sound more vital and energetic than any group of portly old men have any right being. It's a good album to make someone listen to if they have yet to enjoy Clutch too. Though I imagine they’ll continue to evolve and change, I hope they carry on with this simpler format for at least another album or two. Being clever is all well and good but it’s fun to have fun sometimes too.

9 out of 10 – Almost perfect…almost

Best Track: Noble Savage

Psychic Warfare isn't as yet on Spotify yet but I'll edit this once it is. Probably.
Buy it from Amazon HERE
Visit the bands’ website HERE

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