Review Summary: Clutch continue to carry on the pure spirit of rock with this release. Everything that defines Clutch is here.
If there is one band that has earned my unshakable faith over years of following them, it is Clutch. Many others have felt the same way; the band has gained a loyal following since their start in the 90s. They may have shed most of their metal skin as they matured and followed rocks past back to the blues, but they have always progressed. The heaviness of their music hasn’t faded, just taken a different form. They have one of the most solid discographies around and if you are already a fan, just go get this album right now. For doubters, keep reading. Clutch strips back down to a four piece for this album for a bit louder sound than the last two releases. It's reminiscent of “Slow Hole to China” and “Elephant Riders” at times. Their strong brand of heavy blues rock is definitely at full force here on their 9th full length.
Neil Fallon’s relentless, hilarious and unique lyrical rants are always a highlight of Clutch’s albums. “Strange Cousins” opener "Motherless Child" doesn’t quite stick out in that area but the rest of the album delivers. What "Motherless Child" does provide is a more old school, blues approach to songwriting. It keeps things lyrically simple but the instrumental side gets pretty deep. The second track, "Struck Down" is where the album really picks up. It wastes no time with an intro and soon the listener is plunged into a classic Clutch powerhouse of riffs. It’s hard to get Fallon’s great delivery of the chorus out of your mind once you give it a listen or two. The band shows a bit of restraint when comparing this album to the last two releases but the faster paced songs really display their technical talent. The real power and talent in Clutch has always been the soul they put into the music and the amazing riffs.
"50,000 Unstoppable Watts" is one of the masterpieces of the album. It’s hard to describe the greatness of this song but I think I will go with “Pure rock fury”. If you listen to one song from the album, pick this one. It has everything a person could want in a rock song. The main riff has to be one of the best this year. At the two minute mark, it transitions into another great one while Fallon’s echoing declares “Comin’ at ya live”. It’s definitely one of their strongest and heaviest tracks along with "Minotaur". "Abraham Lincoln" brings us to Lincoln’s funeral as Fallon gives the tribute and curses the assassin. It shows how Clutch can slow it down and make things interesting. Another example would be "The Amazing Kreskin", another great post-apocalyptic tale from Fallon. Tim Sult displays some great finger sliding on Let a Poor Man Be for the great finale of the song. After looking for a translation for "Algo Ha Cambiado", I discovered it was a cover of Poppo’s Blues Band. Fallon seems like he is having a lot of fun singing in Spanish on this track and his covers are always a gateway to something interesting. The song also features some pretty impressive guitar work. "Sleestack Lightning" also shows off some real talent on the strings and makes a good closer to the album.
Strange Cousins is proof Clutch hasn’t reached their peak quite yet. I wouldn’t count on that being any time soon either with this being the band’s first release on their label, Weathermaker Records. Keep an eye out for them touring because they are quite an experience live. For longtime fans, this will not disappoint and for new fans, this is a great introduction. Compared to their other releases, I would put this album somewhere in the top four. Again and again Clutch proves they embody the pure spirit of rock n’ roll, making the current generation’s version of “rock” look like a bunch of whiney pre-schoolers.