Review Summary: Clutch reclaims their stoner-rock titan tag....
Let's face it, Strange Cousins From The West was a pretty divisive record.
The 2009 release from Maryland-based hard rockers Clutch saw the band back off the gas pedal and dive into their love of blues and country styles. While I personally liked it, many Clutch fans earned for the Clutch of old, unrestrained and high-powered. While my friends, Earth Rocker is that and way much more.
Let's start with the opening title track. The song unfurls with guitar wiggling and then explodes into a killer groove and a riff straight out of the 70's. Then unexpectedly, the chorus absolutely explodes with hard-hitting drum grooves and Neil's Fallon signature booming. The lyrics of the title track are a rousing statement: We're Clutch, we're here to rock and we're here to kick your ass. And from the boogie rock of "Mr. Freedom" to the bluesy "D.C. Sound Attack!" and the jammy closer "The Wolf Man Kindly Requests", Clutch is sending a strong signal to rock music: We're back bitches.
Gone are the organ lines of Robot Hive/Exodus. Instead, Tim Sult is allowed off his leash, and he absolutely rips loose on Earth Rocker. Every song bursts with memorable and well-crafted riffs, and the solos are ace. Jean-Paul Gaster is often neglected when it comes to the discussion of best drummers, But he absolutely belongs in that conversation. His sense of groove is spot-on, and while he has the skills to take over an album, he instead keeps himself tastefully restrained and lets the guitars and vocals take center stage. Dan Gaines is a fabulous bassist and his bass lines are fat and juicy. Neil Fallon remains one of my all-time favorite vocalists, and his voice is in prime form. He has the ability to sweetly carry a softer song like "Gone Cold", or to let loose and roar on the title track's chorus.
Fallon's lyrics are as usual absurd and insanely clever all at the same time. While the title track reads like Clutch's mission statement, "Cyborg Bette" tells the tale of getting it on with sexy robots (seriously) and "Mr. Freedom" is a politically-charged riff-bomb. Fallon even gets sentimental on "Gone Cold" as the lyrics confront growing older and mortality in a well-thought out way. "Book, Saddle & Go" is a funny tale about the Pony Express (I think).
Clutch is one of those bands who has been almost completely and thoroughly neglected by the mainstream, but then again they've never needed the masses anyway. Over the past 20+ years, Clutch has built a massively loyal and fanatical fanbase, all while releasing some of the best rock albums around. When it comes to rock n' roll nowadays, Clutch is leading the pack. If Earth Rocker is the starting point for the second half of Clutch's musical career, then it is a damn fine starting point.