Is there even any point in reviewing Clutch albums anymore, other than to let the world know they’re back with another? Every release since the turn of the millennium could arguably be declared an all-time classic, and every single one slots comfortably into any Top 10 of the Year you care to mention, so to reveal they’ve done it again with Book of Bad Decisions just seems churlish, like we’re wasting valuable listening time even reading these words.
More comfortable in their own skin than it’s comfortable to imagine, the band can be found listed under the “Aint Broke, Don’t Fix It” chapter of the Big Book of Rock these days, next to Motorhead and AC/DC, locked into their signature sound and knocking out classic-Clutch with less effort than it takes to upset Roxanne Pallett. This is very much the sound of a band that knows what they like doing, knows how to do it and knows how to do it well, nowhere more so than the power-funk stomp of Ghoul Wrangler, from the bizarre lyrics, wet-fuzz guitar and Go-Go influences right down to the trademark “build, pause …. kick it down” motif they adopt so often and so well.
Whereas predecessors Psychic Warfare and Earth Rocker both launched with their strongest tracks, Book of Bad Decisions takes a little time to get going, the opening trio dwelling more in the plaintive, bluesy worlds of Strange Cousins From The West and Robot Hive: Exodus. However, with context and time, not only do they wrap their tendrils round you like vines on ruins, but their place as rock d’oeuvres for the rest of the album becomes clear, teasing the listener into track four, How To Shake Hands, which kicks down the saloon doors to announce in no uncertain terms that it’s business as usual. Clutch have always been masters of the double-tap (think Electric Worry into One Eyed Dollar; Earth Rocker into Crucial Velocity; X-Ray Visions into Firebirds!; even Worm Drink into Army of Bono) but here they attempt an ambitious quadruple, with How To Shake Hands, In Walks Barbarella, Vision Quest and Weird Times staking an exceptionally strong claim for the greatest run of tracks on a Clutch album yet, with trumpets, pianos and (weaponised) funk fighting for space in your mind chasm. From here on in it’s nothing but hits, with blues, stoner, fuzz, rock and funk blended into a disgustingly satisfying gumbo in ways only Clutch can. Was there ever any doubt? The biggest cult band in the world have done it again.
Book of Bad Decisions is out now on Weathermaker Music