Where do I start trying to explain Maryland rockers Clutch.  They have a highly unique sound that incorporates the attitude of metal, the grooves of rock and roll, and the passion of the blues.  While many other bands may incorporate these attributes into their music, nobody does quite like Clutch.  Over the years they have mellowed and streamlined their sound which had a lot of metal and grunge characteristics and brought out the more blues and rock and roll orientated sounds.  While album such as Transitional Speedway League and the self titled album are quite amazing in their own rights, it’s the change in style that they embraced on The Elephant Riders that really pulled this band into being a force to be reckoned with.

Robot Hive/Exodus is Clutch‘s seventh full length album and coming off the mindblowing Blast Tyrant they had set the bar for themselves really high.  This album maintains the level of quality that we have all come to expect from Clutch.  Every song is well written, they all have hooks that may never remove themselves from your head, and the groove on this album will have your body moving for the entire duration.  Other things of note on this album is the lyrical style.  At first many songs will sound like the rambling of a madman, but upon closer inspection they turn out to be immensely intelligent and allude often to mythological characters and events.  Also on this album they introduce a major addition to the band, Mick Schauer.  What he bring to be band is the addition of Hammond organs, clavinets, and electric pianos and this works in spades for the band making their sound even more home-grown American rock and roll.

The album kicks off with the ultra groovy “The Incomparable Mr. Flannery”.  From the first note of Tim Sult’s guitar this song just puts your body into motion.  Neil Fallon’s “dirty” vocal style fit they lyrics of the song perfectly as he sings about primer grey Camaros, REO Speedwagon, lager, and other things American.  The following song, one of the heavier songs on the album, “Burning Beard” really showcases Neil’s personality as a vocalist as he spits insane lyrics like a madman Sunday preacher on the pulpit(and this was realized on their video for the song, see below).  It also has some progressive rock elements in it with the unusual song structure and a part that sounds like a group of monks chanting.

On “Gullah” bassist Dan Maines uses his instrument to make our bodies groove along with the hook laden guitar riffs and leads and the catchy vocal melodies.  “Mice and Gods” is a pretty much straight up rock and roll song that will stay with you long after you’ve listened to it.  “Pulaski Skyway”(a very large bridge in NJ!!) and “Never Be Moved” continue with the very danceable rock and roll that Clutch is known for.  And then there’s “10001110101”, never has a song so odd been so groovy, Mick Schauer lets himself be know on this song using his electric piano to really add highlights and color all over an already colorful song.  Neil vocal delivery is superb on this song also as he sounds passionate and convincing as he sing lines such as “Robot lords of Tokyo, Smile, Taste kittens” and “Man alive, The jive and lyrics, Radioactive, don’t come near it.  Temple of Syrinx having the bake sale of the year.”(hell yeah Rush shout out!).

“Small Upsetters” is a classic Clutch blues and groove jam similar to ones on previous albums such as “WYSIWYG” and “Crackerjack” but this time it is dominated once again by Mick Schauer and his Hammond organ delightfully playing with Tim Sult’s guitar.  The other instrumental track on the Robot Hive/Exodus is “Tripping the Alarm” and here the other band members get to be in the spotlight a bit more.

“Circus Maximus” takes the classic bluesy guitar riffs and groovy bass lines and adds an odd time signature therefore leaving a unique and different listen that still makes your body want to move.  “10,000 Witnesses” and “Land of Pleasant Living” keep the album grooving along never letting your attention wander elsewhere.  “Gravel Road” pulls all of Clutch‘s blues styling and puts them right up front and then just rock and roll the hell out of them, this is one of the most fun songs on the album and it’s impact will stick with you long after the album is over.  And to close off the album Clutch give a cover of old time blues legend Howlin’ Wolf‘s “Who Been Talking?” with Neil’s voice channeling old school blues so well you might be wondering if he possesses the spirit of Robert Johnson in his soul.

I’d also like to make note of Jean Paul Gaster’s drumming on this album, while it may be simple he’s still a powerful drummer and it takes great skill to be able to match Tim Sult’s bass work, and without those two this album wouldn’t have the impact it does.

I strongly recommend listening to Robot Hive/Exodus.  This is a great slice of good ol’ Americana and should not be missed.  Clutch channels the soul of the blues from the early 1900’s and infuses them delightfully with straight up old time rock and roll and tosses in a hint of modern flair for good measure.  This is a great album to put on when you want to move your body and it has great rhythm and lots of diversity, not one song sounds like another.  The soul of this album will dig deep into your body and not let go for a very long time.   And check out Clutch‘s other releases, they are all solid, and if you have the opportunity to see them live, jump on it, they put on a great live show and go great with a few beers and some good friends.

 

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