Review Summary: Book of Bad Decisions is close to greatness but never quite reaches its potential.
When you’ve been doing this as long as Clutch have, you pick up a thing or two along the way. It’s an understated achievement that these guys have been doing this blues-stoner amalgam a little shy of three decades now, but when every album they’ve ever released stands as an artistic merit, it’s something few bands of the same era can care to claim. It’s like the chiselling of a statue they’ve been working on since 1991 and now, with Book of Bad Decisions
, we almost get a glimpse at the finished sculpture. Just short of the hour mark, Book of Bad Decisions
gives you an overly generous offering of warm bluesy riffs, sleazy fuzzed-out grooves and a crusty desert heat cementing the album’s aesthetic, made all the more vivid through Neil’s playful lyrics and southern drawled vocals. Songs are composed with panache and exuberance, with an array of instruments at hand to bring these tracks to life. There’s a wide selection of textures and tools in the bag here to make this a rock-solid album: the frenzied piano section and Neil’s perky contributions make “Vision Quest” sound like an energized saloon brawl; the organ on “Emily Dickinson” is a subtle lashing at the start of the song, buried underneath stoner sensibilities, eventually showing its worth at the explosive chorus where it supports the empowered hook; and the horn section on “In Walks Barbarella” sounds like an initially odd fit, but wins you over by the end of the track and works extremely well in its context.
The entire record is built around excess and elaborate writing; a bombardment on the senses. When Book of Bad Decisions
doesn’t have Neil throwing instruments at you, it has Tim laying out Floydian guitar swells and psychedelic passages that plunge you deeper into the rabbit hole, and it’s these parts that break away as the standout highlights for me. The problem is that they aren’t as prevalent as I’d like them to be. As with a lot of Clutch material, the fat hangs low and needs a good trim around the sides. It’s a very long-winded album, one that constantly wears out its welcome. A lot of the tracks here could have been cut down a minute or two or dropped entirely, “Graul Wrangler”, “Spirit of 76” and “Lorelei” are the easy culprits for the damage, songs that just seem to lack the staying power or just drone on for way too long. There’s a frequent occurrence where tracks stop to smell their own roses than focus on the task at hand. If the band centred its attentions on the tight-knit writing of “How to Shake Hands” they could well be sat on their best album to date. As it stands, it’s one that shows a band’s sound meticulously crafted to the tee, but still lacks the fundamental restraint to tell a concise story without it backfiring on them. It has some of their best moments here, and for fans of the band it will certainly deliver, but expect to wade through needless indulgence from time to time.
FORMAT//EDITIONS: DIGITAL/̶/̶V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶ ̶(̶V̶A̶R̶I̶O̶U̶S̶)̶/̶/̶C̶D̶/̶/̶C̶D̶ ̶B̶O̶O̶K̶ ̶E̶D̶I̶T̶I̶O̶N̶
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: http://www.pro-rock.com/