HardReviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Strange Cousins From The West (Weathermaker Music)

I do believe, sweet soul sisters, that this is my lowest rated Clutch album in years, or likely ever, 'cos man, as much as I love the whole idea of Clutch, and Neil's tripwire lyrics and... the packaging, sweet lordy... a fold-out digi with die-cut flaps, poster and cork as a disc holder, this new one is a little light all over. First off, the production is not massive, but actually kinda Tom Allom/British Steel. And second, the songs are both not heavy and kind of simple, as if what we've got is a Clutch demos record, before the salad dressing was put on and a few songs got chucked. Weirdly, even the mellower stuff is played with weak-tea electric guitars, like when Metallica plays ballads, that sort of "we're too lazy to change the arrangements" thing. So everything sounds kind of small and close and not powerful. Still, this is Clutch, so all manner of swampy, bluesy, stoner rock is there and amusing, topped creatively with lyrics like Les Claypool in the Blue Oyster Cult. But yeah, musically, we've heard all these retro-'70s Clutch tricks before (and surreptitiously, like if you seek them out, through a few dozen Swedish stoner rock albums over the years), and with a much better drum sound and more sizzle and more excitement, on previous albums, most notably Blast Tyrant, which roars. Weird, in the absence previous, it sorta felt like it wasn't really time for a new Clutch album, and then one this one arrives, and it doesn't stomp around the stage like the hoary beard-pullin' jam band Clutch are. Instead, Strange Cousins seems like some kind of make-do snack before, hopefully, the next gnashing, slashing blues metal monster beast feast.
Rating 7.5

Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food (Reversed Image)

Impossibly, Chuck once fronted Bad Brains, but he is most notorious for his big-mouthed ranting all over the first two Faith No More albums, pointedly, Introduce Yourself, which is a vaulted classic known for pioneering the genre known as rap metal. An amazing record that is, and this new one is actually, astonishingly, similar in joie de vivre, creativity, even rhythmic metal-ness, and of course the awesomeness of Chuck. Now residing in Cleveland, nonetheless Chuck got some cool guest stars involved, namely John 5, Roddy Bottum, Jonathan Davis and Skynyrd drummer Michael Cartellone, who flew in and grooved it out in two days. Face it, you thought this could or would suck, but it is actually very much like a very good old Faith No More record, with pounding rhythms, soul-replenishing melodies, humour, surprise structures, even a gorgeous guest female vocal (he told me her name - I forget... on his label!) on 'Nameless' a gorgeous little acoustic campfire track. Highlights are the relentless and plodding 'Tractor' plus 'Punk Rock Movie' which is like Bob Dylan meets The Clash, but seriously, it's a pretty rocking record, dimensioned with Chuck's cool vocals which go a laconic (ha ha - world weary, right?) Kevin Moore route once in a while. Hey, I guess you'd call it stoner rock, really, but effortlessly hip like a Brant Bjork or Josh Homme joint. Oh yeah, and there's pretty much zero rapping (over hard rock for food).
Rating 8

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