Review Summary: A witty, joyous hard rock album that's not only well educated, but tremendous fun to listen to.
“Every f***er just loves Clutch.”
Strong words from the UK Metal Hammer magazine. Ironic, really - not a single person I've talked to has said that this, or any of Clutch's albums, suck, yet they're hardly setting any bestselling charts alight, whereas almost everyone buys the ‘flavour of the month’ album each month, only to say how much it sucks. Nevermind; for those who’ve already bought this marvel of an album, they’ll know how good it really is. For those who haven't, then I suggest you go buy it and delve into some of the best rock music for a long, long time.
Even before you open the CD case, you know these boys are paying homage to their roots (and in damn fine style, I might add) - Beale Street is a street in Memphis, Tennessee, famous for its very own shaping of the blues - but make no mistake, this isn't a record that exists solely to hark back to the older age. It's very much a modern record, made with retro influences, and capped off with Clutch's own rock sensibilities.
Opener You Can't Stop the Progress
sets out Clutch's stall for the rest of the album - it's insightful, well executed and smart to boot (“I understand there's no victimless crimes; that being said, I feel rather victimized”); it works well, as do the rest of the songs. Not only that, they're actually really enjoyable - litterally vibrating with melody and buoyancy, plus mature wit - see Power Player
for those things (“You can always tell a terrorist, by his cologne and the watch on his wrist”).
And yet, even with all these things going on, they are able to mix up the formula, or more accurately, throw it out of the window - White's Ferry
is a deeper track that will more likely reach under the surface of your feelings with it’s mournfully slow melody - right up until the chorus, when they dive into yet another dance-worthy Clutch anthem. Another track that eschews this formula is Child of the City
where, if you can honestly believe it, sees this group of Maryland misfits sound like the polished funk-rock of recent Audioslave album, Revelations
And the great songs just keep on coming - The Devil & Me
, which deals with the aftermath of a failed friendship with Satan, while The Rapture of Riddley Walker
features some excellent guitar work from Tim Sult, and Neil Fallon stamps his vocal mark all over From Beale Street to Oblivion
, in which he makes shifting through different genres seem as easy as buttering a slice of bread. There's also a track from Clutch's back catalogue, much like Megadeth bought back A Tout Le Monde
from previous album Youthanasia, Clutch has re-recorded One Eye Dollar
for this album, and it's a damn fine track, short as it is.
So what's stopping this from getting that all elusive Classic score, then, if all this is contained in the album? Well, there is the fact that it's simply not that easy an album to get into. It took me quite a while, and sure, while you can bounce around to lead single Electric Worry
or Opposum Minister
, it'll still take you a while to understand what you're actually hearing. And while there may not a bad song on this album, admittedly, not every cut is exactly gold - Black Umbrella
, for example, lacks the bite of Power Player
,and it's obvious Clutch's forte is rocking, which means the slower tracks aren't the classic cuts that they might have been.
But that’s not really an issue here; every track is listenable, and they're all worthy of their inclusion on this album. I personally recommend this album to everyone, even those who hated previous Clutch work, just to see whether you'll ‘get’ it. If you want some good-time rock that isn’t afraid to show you a few surprises, then this is for you. And even if that's not what you want, try it anyway - given the chance, From Beale Street to Oblivion
will show you that rock doesn't have to be straight-laced, serious and concerned with the mainstream to be good.
Funny, quirky, and well executed - what more do you want?
- You Can't Stop the Progress
- Power Player
- The Devil & Me
- Rapture of Riddley Walker
- Mr Shiny Cadillackness