Got Clutch! (And Fall!)

I scored a copy of Clutch’s ace new album, From Beale Street to Oblivion, a couple of days ago, and have been doing some serious head-banging and singing along with it while driving ever since. I’d be hard pressed to think of a walloping contemporary rock band anywhere near as good a Clutch: they blend outstanding lyrical imagery with ferociously swinging rock riffery like nobody’s business. It’s like something lifted straight out of 1974, only with better production values and fewer hippies. I see the blues-laced Beale Street sitting pretty as the third of a troika of legendary albums produced by this Maryland-bred crew of rock roustabouts, alongside its predecessor, Robot Hive/Exodus, and 1998’s sterling The Elephant Riders. Those three records offer particularly effective blends of power and finesse: the songwriting and melodies are richer than on any of the other Clutch elpees, the production mines the ever-fine line between live oomph and studio polish, and the performances just flat out blow the roof off of whatever you choose to experience them in. Sterling sounds, all around. Highly recommended for the rock fan in your life, no matter what flavor they prefer: I know blues hounds, metalheads, stoner rockers, hardcore kids and lawyerly moms who respond to the solid grooves that Clutch offer. Give ’em a shot.

I also got the Fall’s Reformation Post-TLC, about which I had posted earlier, when I was still in full anticipation mode. It lived up the advance billing: it’s rough, rugged, nasty, surly and more edgy than any Fall albums in quite some time. The version of the group that crafted the album is currently on tour in England, winning rave reviews from some pretty picky fans. Thing is, the band is so transient and singer-songwriter-mastermind Mark E. Smith is so mercurial that there’s always an element of worry about such a seemingly successful line-up: some concert attendees have noted that American bassist Rob Barbato seems to be in some sort of a visible, palpable, uncomfortable hot seat with his boss on stage. Which is too bad, since I hope he’s got the gumption to stick out the on-stage abuse after the tour ends. I think he was the best part of the latest album, and would love to see him hang around long enough to anchor at least one U.S. tour where I could see him work his four-string magic in person. Fingers crossed . . . since they’ve got two bassists in the band now, so it would be pretty easy for MES to drop one without having to hire a replacement

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