The Hang of Music: Sequelitis
Greetings from the future! The date is Thursday 7th of June, 2012. Do not adjust your sets!
Though you may be confused by the order of release, this is actually “The Hang of Music” review number 48. Number 47 was last week, where I bravely got a bunch of fellow time-travellers to help me review [EXPUNGED] in an Audiovised fashion. However, due to exams around last week, I also decided to mess with the time vortex.
So this week’s review of Clutch’s eponymous second album is being released out of chronological order. Which has a bizarre sort of poetry to it, as this is my first sequel review; to a review I wrote nearly a year ago. I feel old now…
Yes, this is a sequel review. And no, not all sequels are bad; some are even better than the original! I’m sure I can think of examples of this, but not right now. So take my word for it when I say that “some [sequels] are even better than the original”. Believe it!
But furthermore, I chose to review this album because, when I listened to the last one, “Transnational Speedway League”, I don’t think that I did it justice. I also don’t think it did *itself* justice. But I also saw potential – and that potential had to be there, because later albums said so. I feel like I should have gotten around to this sooner, and if I’d had my way, I would have been doing one Clutch album per Setlist. And I’d go back in time and make it that I had, but I was already going to couldn’t have sooner interfered with those setlists. But I’m starting now!
Let me start off by saying this: Clutch’s eponymous second album – hereafter referred to as called “Clutch – The Album Not The Band” or TANTB, because… just because! The thing about TANTB is that it sounds like a lot of things. Not in the sense that it mixes a lot of genres. That’s later “Clutch”. It literally sounds, on nearly every track, like they are explicitly trying to imitate certain other bands and singers.
- “Big News II”, with it’s grungy guitar and “Iron Man” style swing, is treading dangerously close to Black Sabbath territory. Black Sabbath territory being defended by Level 3 sentries and a couple of Pyros for support, this is a risky move.
- “Texan Book of the Dead”, and I’m just thinking of Led Zepp already. Or maybe Rush, when they were nicking off of Led Zepp all the time. One or the other. Being sung by Primus. And it contains “Ooh Ee, Oo Ah Ah, Ting Tang, Walla Walla Bing Bang” as the chorus, mixed with “B-I-N-G-O” and “Old MacDonald”. I’m starting to suspect that Clutch may have more in common with Psychostick than I previously suspected.
- The singing on “Escape from the Prison Planet” sounds like Hendrix. Hendrix telling you to eat shit, but Hendrix still…
- “Tight Like That” is them doing a very good early RHCP impression as well.
- 7 Jam is them doing a really bad cover of Bob Marley’s “Every Little Ting”… Oh wait. You know I’ve just gotten so used to thinking they’re imitating someone or another, don’t mind me!
With all of these comparisons to make, I’m starting to get worried. Either they’re doing this on purpose, or I’ve run out of ways to describe music without name-dropping other artists. I would test this out, with a brief review of [random song generator]… Doctor Steel’s “Lament For A Toy Factory”, but frankly I don’t have the time. Also, the idea of me running out of words to say is preposterous in its… erm… gimme a moment, I’ll think of a way to end that sentence…
…Impossibility! That’ll do! Anyway…
A lot of the tracks have very simple structures. And by that, I mean they have one riff, and keep with it for 5-6 minutes, playing the odd solo over the top. Whether you like that sort of thing is a personal matter – I, personally, don’t as I find it’s often very lazy. And while it undeniably is lazy here, I’d actually be tempted to say that it works. It builds the track, and feels like it’s going somewhere, even when it isn’t really. I guess what I’m trying to say is the songs have a tendency to keep your interest for a long time. For that reason, I would say Clutch is GREAT driving music! Especially on long roads in America, which, I have been reliably informed, are LOOOOOOONNNNG.
Similarly, the structure of the album is improved greatly by the really rather epic segues. A lot of the tracks go from one to another really well, and that is not a thing to be sniffed at. Look at my love of “Fantasy Black Channel”, for example. Segues are not to be underestimated, and the ones on Tracks 1-2 and Tracks 12-13 on TANTB are pretty awesome. Seamless segues are always cool. Always.
However, it’s not all Rosy Goodstuff (my favourite made-up barmaid in a hobbit tavern, I think). For example, I would very much like to be able to comment on the lyrics. Really I should be doing that right now. But there’s no point; they’re kinda not related to anything. At all. Presumably, each song has a theme in the lyrics, but beyond that, there’s not much happening. I’m actually pretty convinced that they just didn’t care, and put in words because a song has to have words. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad that they didn’t write lyrics, but I can’t bring myself to care.
For all the listenability, I have yet to be able to pick a track that I like. One that stands out above the others as being something particularly fun, or cool, or whatever. A lot of the songs sort of merge into one another (see: comment about segues), so it’s hard to *like* a track without liking the others around it. The album itself is amorphous. Very much so. In fact, a good way to sum up the album would probably be an
“One big amorphous ball of slightly silly, groovy, doomy grunge.”
Here’s the overarching part though; the part where I comment on their progression from album numero uno, which has actually been a lot. “Transnational Speedway League” sounded too obscure and difficult to be good. It was. “TANTB” sounds too much like everyone else to be really good. Emphasis here is on the “really”. Both albums were indistinct and difficult, but I have to say that “TANTB” is a marked improvement. A lot more listenable and fun, but without really compromising on the darkness and slow doom-beat. And that’s to be applauded.
I just wish that they’d stop doing abject covers, parodies and pastiches of other people. That would help. And if the tracks were a bit more distinct from each other, too. As what I’ve heard of their newer stuff is very, very unique, both from other artists and their own songs.
So what I’m trying to say is, maybe this is just another step along the way. Rome wasn’t built in an album. Because for all my jokes about this sounding like other people, TANTB is sounding a lot more listenable, and is showcaes a lot more technical proficiency. And in the end, isn’t that what really counts?
… No. No it isn’t. But it’s a start.
Oh, and for the record: “A preacher, A trucker, A holy roller” is perhaps one of the best, most contrived, puns I’ve heard in a while. It’s pretty miraculous.