The Maryland rock outfit Clutch has been consistently at it for thirty years. This four-piece band, consisting of vocalist Neil Fallon, lead guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster are a touring (and recording) phenomenon. To call this working-class quartet prolific would be an understatement. Their signature style is often labeled as “stoner rock”: laden with distorted guitar riffs, slow grooves and tempo. But to label them as just that, is to do them a disservice. Clutch is nothing if not self-aware and referential to musical styles predating them. As far as rock bands are concerned, they alternate between electric blues, stoner and jam band like sensibilities
(check out their side project, The Bakerton Group to hear them go full on Phish).
The band perfectly captures the schizophrenic zeitgeist of the United States in the second decade of the 21st century. Cultists, time travelers, conspiracy nuts, and cryptids abound in these songs. The lyrics in part lampoon several aspects of modern American culture (much of it aimed at the tinfoil hat brigade, modern celebrity and politics) through heavy use of satire. Their songs also have created an unofficial compendium of the gothic, weird, absurd and downright bizarre contained within the continental United States. A veritable Atlas Prodigiosum. I freely admit that I am not the best judge when it comes to poetry. Much of the nuances contained within the form frankly escape my dull sensibilities. However, much of Fallon’s lyrics (to me) qualify as such. Not in a formalized, Byronic way, mind you: the vast majority of his lyrics have tongue placed firmly in cheek. As an example, I would like to submit the song “Oregon” for your consideration, from the album, Slow Hole to China: Rare and Unreleased. This song is the perfect mix of John Barth by way of Robert E Howard: it combines Howard’s fantastic prose, by way of Barth’s theater of the absurd. Don’t believe it? Impossible, you say? Check out these batshit lyrics:
And so it was that I, a wayward throwback to the Mesozoic,
was enslaved as a circus freak to entertain you drunken monkeys.
But Fate still had her twisted sense of humor and she granted me
safe passage to sunny Florida, where for over the past 300 years now
I have been breeding with an unheard-of efficiency.
And soon my progeny will rise up and say
“Hail Draco, king of the dragon men!”
I fashion my crown from Quetzlcoatl’s quills
Build my palace in the jungles of Brazil
In the summertime come my children
“For I hail Draco, king of dragon men!”
Crazy, right? These lyrics have a built in, off-kilter majesty that are one hundred percent Clutch. And if witty, satirical lyrics are not your thing, don’t fret. The groove heavy riffs will see you through. Here are my top ten (at least for today) Clutch songs, in no particular order.
“Big News I”
“The Elephant Riders”
“Son of Virginia”
“Open Up the Border”
“Book, Saddle and Go”
“Pure Rock Fury”