Clutch: Strange Cousins From The West

By: Dennis Cook

There may be no more together hard rock band today than Clutch. While one's personal taste may argue the supremacy of say Mastadon or Drunk Horse, in their basic constitution this is as pure, inventive and motherfuckin' serious as rock 'n' roll comes. And like the best in their breed, Clutch, despite a passing resonance with their compatriots, deliver what is utterly there own, a vision rippling with muscle, covered in matted hair, howling like a wounded beast atop high vistas or snarling red-eyed in gullies. This is the animal that pounces on Strange Cousins From The West (released July 14 on Weathermaker Music), where the quartet continues their excavation of raspy blues with pummeling, brilliant efficiency.

Wandering a city of crooked alleys, Clutch emerges working the "Motherless Child" motif, but their version also paints themselves as wandering dogs and country-less men as well as orphan boys. This band seems mean when they're cornered and there's a pressed-upon intensity to Strange Cousins that's punk as anything out there but swirled into jazz shift smart changes and a relentless tightness that grips one with mighty, calloused hands. Yelping about "anthrax, ham radio and liquor" one moment, they're off into Armageddon and mythological mazes the next. And in between there's the greatest rock salute to "Abraham Lincoln" ever ("The assassin, the coward, no grave for you/ The assassin, the actor, no applause for you!") and lessons in "Freakonomics." They've come some distance from their sandpaper raw early days, but everything's still workingman ready musically but now with smarts enough to impress book learnin' types, too.

This is the blessed merger of tuned-in cultural awareness and an unremitting commitment to heaviness. By turns funny and steering wheel pounding righteous, Strange Cousins, in every respect - including the Illuminati worthy, symbol rich packing - speaks to thick layers of strata they invite us to tunnel and claw through. By combining gut punch impact, the slur of blues tradition and deeper subtleties Clutch has forged one of their best outings to date and provided further evidence that doing things on one's own terms can sometimes play out beautifully.

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[Published on: 9/14/09]

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