Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Review of Clutch's Psychic Warfare

When a veteran band becomes famous for having a signature sound, there's a fine line between praising them for sticking to their guns and kissing their asses for merely existing. Clutch hasn't changed in their twenty-five year history but their cult following keeps growing thanks to the band knowing what they're good at and finding clever ways to effortlessly exercising their formula. Their eleventh studio album is no exception to the rule. It's pure rock comfort food but damn it all if this isn't some of the best comfort food you've ever tasted!

As indicated by the short time between releases and an identical production job courtesy of returning producer Machine, Psychic Warfare is pretty much Earth Rocker Part 2. It has the same raw sound and fast pacing and a bunch of songs feel like direct counterparts to the songs off that effort. The high speeds on the opening "X-Ray Visions" and "Firebirds" match the punches of "Earth Rocker" and "Crucial Velocity," the bluesy swing of "D.C. Sound Attack!" lives on with "A Quick Death In Texas," and "Behold the Colossus" has a building gallop in the vein of "The Face." They even reach back a little further as the acoustic-driven closer "Son of Virginia" is a pretty cool rewrite of "The Regulator."
Thankfully none of the songs ever feel like lazy retreads. While songs have similar templates as past tracks, each one has a nice quirk or two that allows them to stand out. This is best illustrated by "Our Lady of Electric Light;" the scaled back instrumentation makes it seem like the album's answer to "Gone Cold" but the transition from "The Doom Saloon" and the percussive shuffle make it a highlight on its own merits. It also helps that the band members' performances are as enthusiastic as ever and that Neil Fallon still delivers plenty of the one liners that are so rarely replicated by their legion of imitators.

In an era where bands like AC/DC and Motorhead make the same album over and over with all of the memorable riffs left behind, it is enlightening to see Clutch continuing to impress listeners by doing the same thing. It not only avoids sounding like a pale imitation of Earth Rocker but may actually be more consistent. Old fans will count this as another classic to add to the Clutch canon and newbies are recommended to try this as their first listen. The bands of their generation and older who are currently riding the nostalgia circuit have a lot to learn.

"X-Ray Visions"
"A Quick Death In Texas"
"Our Lady of Electric Light"
"Behold The Colossus"
"Son of Virginia"

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