Posted in Whathaveyou on February 9th, 2012 by JJ Koczan
You’re not about to hear me start complaining that Clutch are doing a 2LP reissue of their 2004 outing, Blast Tyrant. I recall thinking at the time that their DRT Records debut was their best album yet, perfectly nailing the middle ground between the overly smoothed Elephant Riders and the rawer-than-it-needed-to-be Pure Rock Fury. Even now, “Subtle Hustle” was easily among the high points of my New Year’s Eve. But what I’m not seeing in the press release below is any news of a new album.
Sure, a Blast Tyrant reissue is great — I know the CD one they did last year through their own Weathermaker Music certainly was — but with a spring tour booked and European festivals in the summer, when can we expect a follow-up to 2009’s Strange Cousins From the West? That’s what I really want to know.
Three years and no new Clutch is a long time. Just saying. In the meanwhile, here’s this:
WeathermakerMusic has announced the date of Feb. 28 as the official retail release for the Clutch double-vinyl edition of Blast Tyrant. This 180+ gram expanded vinyl contains 16 songs and includes six mini-posters taken straight from Blast Tyrant’s “Atlas of the Invisible World.” Each illustrated poster is sized 8.5″ x 11” and depicts one of the various characters featured within the Blast Tyrant storyline. Prior to Feb. 28, the double vinyl edition of Blast Tyrant is exclusively available via clutchmerch.com.
In Clutch tour news the guys are about to confirm a North American Spring Tour. Dates will be announced in the coming weeks. Clutch will also be returning to Europe this festival season. The band has been confirmed for the Sonisphere Festival in Madrid, Spain, on May 26 and the Peace and Love Festival in Borlänge, Sweden on June 29. Additional festival appearances are expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
It was the last night of the big trip to Detroit. The Patient Mrs. and I had seen some friends, done a lot of touring around the city, drank no shortage of Motor City Brewing Works’ Ghettoblaster and other assorted local brews, and I figured the best possible way to cap being in Michigan was a drive to Flint to catch Clutch at the Machine Shop.
Seeing Clutch in Flint was something special because of the much-enjoyed Live in Flint, Michigan live CD, but also because the timing of the trip had meant I didn’t get to catch either their stop in Brooklyn or the two boat shows they did on a cruise liner around Manhattan (though they did have the exclusive t-shirts from the latter for sale with their merch). These things happen. I also got married on a night they were playing Starland Ballroom. Sometimes schedules conflict, but the chance to see them in a place they deemed supportive enough to record a live album there wasn’t one I was going to pass up, so to the Machine Shop we went.
The venue was basically a cement box, and on the walk inside, I saw several bumper stickers that said, “The driver of this vehicle owns a gun” in varying clever ways. One was just the word “Flint” in all capital letters with a handgun replacing the ‘L.’ At times like that, I always have to remember to keep my wiseassery in check. In any case, the bikers outside seemed to have security in check. Inside, it was crowded and hot and though the reformed trio incarnation of C.O.C. had been slated to support Clutch on the tour, there was on stage some reggae-influenced Sublime-sounding band who were very much not the Animosity lineup.
C.O.C. had, as Clutch vocalist Neil Fallon later explained, pulled out of the tour for “medical reasons.” Pretty vague, and no appendectomies were mentioned, so I don’t know what the deal was. They didn’t play. The douche rock band, whose name I never caught, ran through their set and seemed to appreciate the crowd, but it just wasn’t my thing. Several drunk dudes standing immediately to my right ate it up, so I guess there’s that.
Clutch came out in good time and kicked into a set half-full with surprises. They opened with “Sea of Destruction” from Slow Hole to China, and “Promoter (of Earthbound Causes)” from Blast Tyrant was especially cool to hear, and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster led “Mercury” jamming right into “Child of the City” from From Beale Street to Oblivion. The single, “50,000 Unstoppable Watts,” from their latest album, Strange Cousins From the West, was right on the money, “Immortal” thrilled the crowd and a plugged-in blend of the acoustic and electric arrangements of “Tight Like That” from the self-titled was ultra-grooving — bassist Dan Maines in the pocket while Fallon and Tim Sult doubled up on guitars — but “Animal Farm” sounded slow coming out of “Struck Down” and overall, the band looked kind of tired.
And if they were, it’s certainly understandable. The aforementioned boat shows were basically comprised of two full gigs in one night, with a show the night before and one the night after in Pittsburgh. I don’t think Clutch have taken significant time off from touring since Strange Cousins From the West was released in 2009, but no matter how used to it you might be, five shows in four days — with another one still to come the day after before finally getting a night off — is a lot. Still, part of me can’t help but think it’s time Clutch got off the road, took a month or two away from it, and came back to write another album.
If the “The party’s over/You all got to go/The wolfman is coming out” (or thereabouts) chorus to the unnamed new song they played is any indication of the level of morale — which, admittedly, it could just as easily not be — then yeah, maybe it’s time to step back on the gigging and focus on the creative side of the band for a while. That said, Clutch never fails to satisfy as a live act, and the Machine Shop show was no exception. That new song sat well alongside “50,000 Unstoppable Watts” in the band’s latter-day bluesy style, and the biggest surprise of the evening came as they began to round out the set and threw in “Subtle Hustle,” one of Blast Tyrant‘s catchiest and least-celebrated songs. It’s a personal favorite, anyway.
They ended the pre-encore set with “Electric Worry”/”One Eyed Dollar” from From Beale Street to Oblivion and came back after long enough to let the room cool down a little to do a few acoustic cuts. Fallon once more joined Sult for the ensuing three songs, which felt more like a miniaturized second set than an encore. The first cut they played, I didn’t recognize, but featured heavy lyrical mention of Abraham — could be new, could be a cover, could be old and reinterpreted, but so far as I could tell it wasn’t “Abraham Lincoln” or anything else from the back catalog. They followed that with “Basket of Eggs,” originally from Jam Room and more recently the title-track of the bonus acoustic EP from the Weathermaker Music reissue of Blast Tyrant, and finally closed out with “The Regulator.”
Kind of a morose note to end on, especially when I’ve seen other Clutch shows that cap more like a party than a concert — the time they were joined on stage in Atlantic City by then-touring partner Scott “Wino” Weinrich for “Red Horse Rainbow” comes to mind — but I like to think it was more the band’s knowing how in their element they were and how much the crowd was willing to go with them that let them make a few unexpected turns for the night. I mean, it’s one thing to get on stage, blast out “Burning Beard,” “Big News I & II,” “Elephant Riders” and “Careful with That Mic” — and nothing against that; I’ve seen and enjoyed that many times from Clutch — but though exhausted, they also seemed completely at ease. Why not relax and do something different when you’re among friends?
I was out of the Machine Shop on the quick and back to Detroit, from which I’d launch the long ride back to New Jersey that was then looming overhead. No regrets, though. If anything, I lost more sleep being excited about the show afterwards than I lost by going, and The Patient Mrs. was kind enough to start the drive in the morning anyway. Definitely it was the right choice to make.
Of the to-date nine albums in the discography of Maryland groove rockers Clutch, the three full-lengths they released on DRT Records represents in many ways their most interesting and expansive stretch of material. From 2004-2007, Clutch released three highly-varied albums and began the process of maturing from their rougher-hewn, heavier early days into the blues rock powerhouse they’ve since become. This period of the four-piece’s development is captured on three distinct CD reissues from their own Weathermaker Music label, boasting double-disc, expanded-digipak artwork editions of Blast Tyrant (2004), Robot Hive/Exodus (2005) and From Beale Street to Oblivion (2007), along with a companion disc of bonus material from each. The band’s legal disagreements with DRT – the label headed by Gentle Giant multi-instrumentalist Derek Schulman – resulting in their reclamation of the rights to the albums here find their resolution. One recalls that From Beale Street to Oblivion originally came in a jewel case with the artwork so misplaced that Clutch elected to sell the Canadian version on tour. Well, with the Weathermaker versions of these records, that won’t be an issue. From the art (gorgeous for each) to the releases themselves to the fan-gem bonus discs, these are about as complete documents as longtime followers of the band could ever hope for.
It’s worth noting as well in terms of artwork that Clutch’s most recent offering, 2009’s Strange Cousins From the West, was also given special treatment as an LP with some of the most appealing art I’ve ever seen this side of one of those glass-case $250 Boris limited edition boxes, and that cut-slipcase ethic extends to the digipaks here, continuity of aesthetic being an obvious focus for both the band – Neil Fallon (vocals), Tim Sult (guitar), Dan Maines (bass) and Jean-Paul Gaster (drums) – and the team behind Weathermaker Music, most notably label manager and longtime devotee Jon Nardachone. Blast Tyrant comes with a silver embossed ink depiction of the cover’s curious figure and is perhaps given the most reverence of the three reissues, if only for its including the Basket of Eggs bonus disc, which boasts the January 2011 acoustic sessions in which Clutch reworked older material – “Tight Like That,” an unplugged live version of “Drink to the Dead” from 2001’s Pure Rock Fury and Blast Tyrant’s own “The Regulator” – and set it alongside new cuts “Box Car Shorty’s Confession” and “Basket of Eggs” and a host of pre-Blast Tyrant demos that includes different lyrics for “Cypress Grove” and the unreleased songs “Walpole Man” (from which the back half of “Army of Bono” comes) and “Steve Doocy,” as well as rawer working versions of “Promoter” and “La Curandera” from the album proper. This alone is a boon for aficionados and worshipers, but the Chon Hernandez illustrations in the 20-page lyric booklet (dubbed “Blast Tyrant’s Atlas of the Invisible World Including Illustrations of Strange Beasts and Phantoms”) are no less a selling point. With Blast Tyrant alone, Clutch prove that if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.
As to the record itself, Blast Tyrant was in many ways a culmination and a new beginning for Clutch. In 2004, it was their first album since leaving Atlantic Records, the first album they recorded digitally – Neil Fallon is said to have laid down his vocal tracks in Jean-Paul Gaster’s living room, and the liner notes confirm it – and in many ways, the first time the balance between heft and clarity was perfected in terms of their production. Where 2001’s Pure Rock Fury was rougher-sounding and 1998’s Elephant Riders overly smoothed out, Blast Tyrant (produced by Machine) was the proverbial third bowl of porridge that was just right. Aside from some of their most memorable songs and live-set staples like “The Mob Goes Wild,” “Cypress Grove,” “Promoter (of Earthbound Causes)” and “Profits of Doom,” Blast Tyrant showed Clutch’s burgeoning sonic breadth with the quiet, contemplatively morose “The Regulator” and “Ghost” and their prowess for raw boogie on “Subtle Hustle,” which even as basically a filler track still came across powerful and irresistibly fun. Their propensity for jamming, since much developed on tours and in their The Bakerton Group instrumental offshoot project, showed itself in the form of the short “Weathermaker” interlude and the album-closing afterthought “WYSIWYG,” and the rush of opener “Mercury” and the gang-chanted chorus of “Spleen Merchant” almost go without saying among Clutch fans.
Obviously the band themselves think highly of Blast Tyrant as well, otherwise the acoustic cuts on Basket of Eggs would probably have just been included on one of the other three albums and the demos paired with live tracks or something else. As the most recent output on any of these albums – Robot Hive/Exodus includes a DVD of the “Burning Beard” video as well as Clutch’s complete set from the Starland Ballroom date of the 2005 Sounds of the Underground tour in Sayreville, New Jersey and From Beale Street to Oblivion culls live tracks from a BBC session and some material that previously showed up on the limited Live at the Hi-Fi Bar release and the video for the hit single “Electric Worry” – Basket of Eggs could have easily been a separate EP release, and it’s the most definitive showing here of where Clutch are today, creatively speaking. “Box Car Shorty’s Confession” is a Cousin Joe blues cover, and “Basket of Eggs” from 1999’s Jam Room follows stylistic suit, and it’s in the reinterpretations of older material that Clutch really shows their blues-laden drive. “Tight Like That” alone is worth the cost of the entire release for its slide-guitar and rearranged vocals (the track was initially released on 1995 landmark self-titled LP), but “Drink to the Dead,” which was recorded in 2001 – a full decade earlier – is somewhat more awkward and “The Regulator” seems like it’s trying to insert blues lines where they don’t fit. Sult’s guitar, Gaster’s drumming and Maines’ bass are masterful as ever (the latter standing out particularly with the added room left by the absence of guitar distortion), but Fallon’s vocals are unsure in their placement in the midsection, and I’m left wondering if Clutch wouldn’t have been better off maintaining the atmosphere of the original song and simply stripping down the arrangement – though I’m also willing to allow I’m hardly impartial in this case, being a tremendous admirer of the regular album version. Sandwiched between the upbeat 12-bar “Box Car Shorty’s Confession” and the start-stop “Basket of Eggs” stands out some, but is no less awkward than the “Cattle Car” demo version of “Cypress Grove” in that it’s just not what someone familiar with Blast Tyrant would be used to hearing.
While I wish I could say the occasion serving as impetus for ringing up Fallon was the impending new Clutch album — which is about due but still won’t be ready to go for some time from the sound of things — instead it’s a tour. Now, Clutch touring is no more “news” than are the crabcakes in the band’s native Maryland except in the particulars of where and when the crowd needs to show up, but when you hit the road alongside gen-you-wine legends Motörhead for a massive US run that you’ve in fact delayed writing your next record to undertake, well, I think that’s worth chatting about. I know if I was touring with Motörhead, I’d want to talk about it.
I found the same to somewhat be the case with Fallon, who is notoriously terse in interviews. He’s not impolite, not a dick by any stretch, but hardly one to sit and pontificate on the band’s history and future. It stands to reason that with the massive work ethic Clutch have displayed over their years on the road, writing and recording, and launching their own Weathermaker Music label on which their former DRT Records catalog — Blast Tyrant, Robot Hive/Exodus and From Beale Street to Oblivion — is in the process of being reissued and which put out their last offering (2009’s Strange Cousins from the West), Fallon would be more about the doing than the talking.
Nonetheless, from the road in Minneapolis, the singer took some time out to talk about reinterpreting older tracks acoustically for inclusion as bonus material on the impending Blast Tyrant reissue, progress writing new songs, playing with Motörhead and tour openers Valient Thorr, his growth as a vocalist, and more. It’s not a long conversation by the standard of some of what gets posted around here, but it’s always great to check in and find out what Clutch are up to next.
Posted in Features on January 18th, 2011 by JJ Koczan
Please don’t think I’m breaking any news here one way or the other about any of these releases. This post is basically just me talking about albums I’d like to see this year. Some have been formally announced, some just alluded to, but if these and the records listed yesterday were all that 2011 had in store, we’d probably still come out of it on the winning side.
Once again, the headline says “Rampant Speculation” and that’s what this is. Maybe in reading it, you’ll agree with something, maybe you’ll disagree. Either way, any comments are appreciated as always.
Let’s have some fun:
YOB: Sad as it is that Oregon doom forerunners YOB had to cancel their appearance at Roadburn and European tour, one can only hope their follow-up to 2009’s blistering The Great Cessation comes out that much sooner as a result. It will be interested to hear where the band goes stylistically. Guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt had plenty to be pissed about going into the YOB reunion, following all that Middian/Midian legal nonsense, but now that that’s through with, will he bring the same kind of vitriol to bare in the songwriting? Hopefully it’s not too long before we find out.
Colour Haze: They’re one of the classiest bands on the planet, and their last album, All, was hands-down my favorite record of 2008. They’ve released the Burg Herzberg two-disc live recording since then, but it’s time for new album, and according to the last Elektrohasch Schallplatten, it’s not far off. All had a more live, more organic feel than anything Colour Haze ever did before — the snare drum’s reacting to the bass and guitar rumble like a nod to everyone listening that it was done with everyone in the same room — and I’m looking forward to hearing how they try to top it.
Clutch: 2010 saw numerous reissues and the usual insane amount of touring, but in 2011, it’s time to see where the next stage in Clutch‘s ongoing development is leading. Maybe they’ll continue the blues-laden path they’ve taken on their last couple records, or maybe they’ll decide it’s time to confuse the hell out of everyone and do something completely different. Aside from being an astounding live act, Clutch are a fantastic group of songwriters, and it’ll be exciting to get to know a new batch of tunes both live and on disc.
Elder: Their self-titled was some seriously riffy business, and I haven’t heard the follow-up yet, but all accounts from those who have say it’s a more ethereal, more open and stonery sound these young Massachusetts rockers have taken on, and that’s just fine by me. MeteorCity is supposed to have the release out later this year, and I have the feeling that when ti finally hits, it’s going to catch a lot of people off guard, in a good way. Hard not to expect big things for a band like Elder, who have so much potential.
Dixie Witch: When it’ll be out, I have no idea, but Dixie Witch‘s fourth full-length will be the band’s first without guitarist Clayton Mills. His tone and natural bluesy shred was a huge part of what made Dixie Witch‘s prior offerings so killer, and by the time the album gets out, it’s likely to have been five full years since they released the excellent Smoke and Mirrors. This one’s long overdue.
Argus: True, I said I’d only list five bands, and these Pennsylvanian metallers make it six, but I’m genuinely curious to hear what they come up with for their Cruz Del Sur label debut. I dug heavily on the trad doom of their Shadow Kingdom Records self-titled debut, and vocalist Butch Ballch (formerly of Penance) never fails to deliver, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out.
There’s other stuff too: Olde Growth, Hour of 13, Wo Fat, Graveyard and a slew of albums that may or may not happen in time for December to roll around. Again, this is just the stuff I want to hear, so if you’ve got anything on your mind or something I should look out for, leave a comment. There’s nothing better than being exposed to new music.
So help me Robot Jesus, I will have the second part of the Best of 2010 podcast up this weekend. If you missed it, the first part is here. I don’t know if it’s going to be tomorrow or Sunday, but one of these days…
Lots to come next week. Monday we’ll close out December and I’ll give the astounding final numbers for the month. Rest assured, my mind is blown by the success of the forums, and even if you’ve been paying attention to the tallies I’ve dropped here and on Facebook, I think yours will be as well.
We’ll kick off 2011 with a look ahead at some of the highlight releases allegedly on deck for the next few months, and I still have those “Best Of” posts I want to do, so I’ll see if I can’t get a few of those out the door as well. I’m supposed to be interviewing Laura Pleasants of Kylesa on Monday too, so keep an eye out for that, and there’s always reviews, Buried Treasures, On the Radars and the rest.
Until then, I wish you the happiest and safest of New Year’s Eves, and all the best wherever you are as 2010 bleeds into 2011 with all the smoothness of a Colour Haze track. We close out the week (and the year) with Clutch, because sometimes you just gotta have that groove, and because fishin’ ain’t what it used to be.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 2nd, 2010 by JJ Koczan
Ah, Clutch news. What’s it been, two full weeks? Still in the midst of their tour with Black Label Society (I’d say it’s a strange fit, but Clutch has toured with Slayer and System of a Down, so put to scale, it makes as much sense as anything else), the venerable Maryland rockers have announced their ceremonial New Year’s Eve show, set to ring in 2011 at The Orange Peel in the incorporated jam band hippie commune known as Asheville, North Carolina. The PR wire has the details:
Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, Dan Maines, and Jean-Paul Gaster will say goodbye to 2010 the same way they began it 365 days prior, kickin’ out the jams on the big stage. Asheville, North Carolina‘s The Orange Peel will be the site of veteran rock band Clutch‘s traditional American New Year’s Eve performance.
In recent years the four piece Maryland hard rock act has LOUDLY rang in the New Year with epic performances in such great American cities as Detroit, Washington DC, Baltimore, Flint, and Grand Rapids, MI. Tickets are available exclusively to fanclub members beginning today, and will be open to the public this Friday. Next week, Clutch will announce a short December tour which will lead up to this special NYE date, as well as the support package which will accompany the band on the road.
2010 has seen Clutch release a plethora of well received international audio, video and digital product via their new label Weathermaker Music, including notable double disc reissues of From Beale Street to Oblivion and Robot Hive/Exodus. The expanded double disc edition of Blast Tyrant will be released in January 2011, with further details to be announced next week at weathermakermusic.com. Weathermaker will also be issuing forth special vinyl editions of all three reissues, to be ready for turntables in the Spring.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 18th, 2010 by JJ Koczan
Yeah, this came in on the PR wire a day or two ago, but give me a break. I’m a working man now. Plus, I think it’s been a whole two weeks since there’s been any Clutch info on the site, so it’s not like you were hurting. Whatever. You’ll live.
Unsurprisingly massive update about an unsurprisingly massive reissue, plus tour dates after the jump. Check it:
Clutch have announced the track listing for the expanded-dual disc edition reissue of Robot Hive/Exodus which will be released worldwide on September 28 through Weathermaker Music. Currently out of print, Robot Hive/Exodus was at one point the band’s largest selling title of the decade due to the strength of its three extremely powerful yet diverse singles, “Burning Beard,” “10001110101” and “Mice & Gods.” In addition to upgraded artwork and new “digi” packaging, this expanded edition will feature a bonus DVD which includes a classic 33-minute outdoor performance recorded on location at the Sounds of the Underground festival in July of 2005 in Sayreville, NJ. Also included is the Jeremy Hunt-directed “Burning Beard” video clip, which was the first ever Clutch single to reach the “year end” Top 10 most played on MTV‘s Headbanger’s Ball.
In total, the Robot Hive/Exodus reissue contains 23 songs and over 90 minutes of music. This is the second of three planned extended double disc reissues, as Weathermaker has already released From Beale Street to Oblivion in July, and plans to issue forth the Blast Tyrant package in November. For the über-Clutch fan and/or retro rocker, Weathermaker will see to it that all three releases will make their way onto limited edition vinyl.
On September 22nd, Clutch will embark on a nine-week tour with Black Label Society and Children of Bodom. In addition to 40+ dates with Zakk Wylde‘s widely popular hard rock act, the veteran rock band from Maryland have just announced six headline concerts that will be placed within the Fall tour, giving their North American fanbase close to 50 opportunities to see the band perform a combination of classic Clutch material as well as current fan favorites like “50,000 Unstoppable Watts,” “Let a Poor Man Be” and “Abraham Lincoln” from the band’s latest, Top 40 soundscan charting, “Strange Cousins From the West” full-length album.
Robot Hive/ExodusReissue Tracklist: Disc 1 (CD)
The Incomparable Mr. Flannery
Mice & Gods
Never be Moved
Tripping the Alarm
Land of Pleasant Living
Who’s Been Talking Disc 2 (DVD)
Mercury –Live Sounds of the Underground
Profits of Doom –Live Sounds of the Underground
Mice & Gods –Live Sounds of the Underground
Gullah –Live Sounds of the Underground
Burning –Beard Live Sounds of the Underground
Impetus –Live Sounds of the Underground
The Mob Goes Wild –Live Sounds of the Underground
Gravel Road –Live Sounds of the Underground
Burning Beard video clip