Clutch continues to astonish with their excellent Weathermaker Vault Series of covers. The band has already released a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic-rock anthem ‘Fortunate Son’. Now you can watch their music video for the clip, helmed by acclaimed director David Brodsky. The clip is a tribute to their late manager Jack Flannigan who passed recently. In the video that accompanies this release, Tim Sult pays homage to Flanagan by playing Jack’s beloved 90’s Les Paul. The video was shot at J Robbins’ Magpie Cage Recording Studio in Baltimore, MD. J Robbins produced the Clutch albums “Robot Hive/Exodus” and “Strange Cousins From The West” and he recorded all of the WM Vault Series singles. Continue reading
Death. Taxes. Clutch. That should be the new pecking order of the old adage going forward. The band remains a beacon to disciples of honest rock and roll music, with no pretense. I mean I don’t think this band could act pretentious in any way if you paid them millions of dollars to do it. As one of the most consistent bands of the last musical generation, it’s never really a question of if the new Clutch album will be good, but rather “How good is that new Clutch, bruh?” Their last few efforts have been especially stellar and seemed to be building to something huge. That something is their new release The Book of Bad Decisions (Weathermaker Music). Continue reading
I’ve not heard much about hard rockers Lionize before tonight, I know they’re signed to Clutch’s Label Weathermaker Music on which they’ve released ‘The Voyage EP’ this year. They’ve been on tour with Clutch a couple of times and include Clutch’s Tim Sult as an occasional guitarist in their line-up. After that basic research I figured it was safe to assume from that they would have a similar sound to Clutch and decided to leave some air of mystery for the actual gig. Continue reading
Most modern music careers go a little bit like this. Write a good (or even great) record. Become popular. Have that “difficult second album” syndrome. Get less popular but retain a fan base. Record a third album that might have an unexpected hit. Record the same album for the rest of your career until everyone gets bored. Split up and then return and do a tour where you play the entirety of your first album because it’s a “masterpiece”. Ho, and indeed, hum.
Thank goodness then for Clutch. Clutch aren’t like most bands. Wait: Clutch are not like any other band. Now into their 20-something year of making smart, intelligent rock music, Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker) is the eleventh studio album from the Maryland, USA residents. Psychic Warfare sees Neil Fallon and Co in the rudest possible health, invigorating and invigorated, creatively refreshed and simply staggering and swaggering.
With their last record, Earth Rocker (also Weathermaker) delivering a veritable feast of passionate, invigorating rock music that proved that straight up rock ‘n’ roll could appeal equally to heart and head, one may have anticipated that Clutch would return with a record that sounded completely different, as has been their wont. Contrarians to the last, Clutch have taken the quality threshold set by Earth Rocker and simply upped the ante. If Earth Rocker set a new high benchmark for the Clutch boys, Psychic Warfare is the call and response that you can only have dreamt of, such is its dynamic power and prowess. In short, it’s utterly brilliant.
Psychic Warfare leaps out of the speakers, hoists you by the throat and never lets up, not for a second; punchier and harder than its predecessor. It’s as if the band has been in the gym for a few months: it’s muscular, tough, ripped. Psychic Warfare sounds like the band are not only content with sounding like Clutch, they are revelling in it. This new album has an immediate, warm sense of familiarity, one that breeds total and utter content.
The spoken word scene setting paranoia of ‘The Affadavit’ gives way to the instant Clutch classic of ‘X-Ray Vision’ which is so infectious it should carry a biohazard warning. The rest of the album just gets better and better. There are more riffs than a guitarists’ convention running throughout: Tim Sult has excelled himself with licks and flourishes that are inspired and imaginative, frenetic and pulsating: just listen to ‘Your Love Is Incarceration’ or ‘Sucker for the Witch’ and you will understand just what I am getting at.
Clutch understand tone and dynamics perhaps better than any band operating today. It’s hardly a surprise that Jean-Paul Gaster is many people’s favourite drummer, such is his ability to bring depth, warmth and structure as well as light and funk to proceedings. In lesser hands, the forcefulness of these songs would feel oppressive, repetitive. In Clutch’s hand’s, these are songs that get in under your skin, make you dance and smile: it is a sheer bloody joy.
Psychic Warfare, like all the best Clutch albums (and, already, it’s amongst the very best of Clutch’s albums) is a record packed full of wizened characters, paranoia, liquor, esoteric cityscapes and name dropping of Stevie Nicks. I have no idea what’s going on in Neil Fallon’s mind but when he produces songs as strong and compelling as this, you cannot help but be drawn into his maelstrom of evocative storytelling. He is a master of American letters; Clutch are a band of sublime brilliance and Psychic Warfare might just be the album you’ve waited all year for.
Long may they reign supreme.
The spirit of the riff continues as a new breed of rock bands have risen and carried the torch of what artists of the 1960s and 1970s had created. Crobot is part of the new breed of rock revivalists who are injecting the scene with a much needed boost of excitement, and their first full length release Something Supernatural is catching fans by surprise.
They recently supported Chevelle on their East Coast leg this past winter. Being a fellow rock band on the scene, Crobot connected with their audience immediately and won over new fans.
“It was a good response,” said guitarist Chris Bishop, about their tour supporting Chevelle. “We sell a lot of merch, which is nice. Their crew is super cool, and so are the guys in the band, which is nice. It’s always cool.”
“They just went out with our buddies in Kyng. It was probably a couple months ago they went out with them. I think they enjoy the stoner-rock stuff we do.”
Crobot began in 2011 in Pottsville, PA when singer Brandon Yeagley and guitarist and Tennessee native Chris Bishop found a common bond between them with their mutual love of bluesy riff rock. They later added bassist Jake Figueroa and his brother, drummer Paul, to the fold.
“We’ve been around since 2011. That’s when Crobot first started. That was me and the singer started the band. We played around with a couple different blues rock bands in the New Jersey/PA area, and that’s where we met Jake [Figueroa, bass] and Paul [Figueroa, drums]. They’re brothers and ended up joining the band before we got signed by Wind Up. The rest is history.”
They recorded an EP in 2012 called The Legend Of The Spaceborne Killer, which helped attract fans everywhere they played.
“What had happened was…I’d say in 2012 we independently released our CD. At the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, that’s when Wind Up started talking to us. It took almost all of 2013 to get signed. It’s the lawyer stuff and everything. It was in September of that year when we signed our deal. Then we went in and recorded the album in November. Then it brings us to this year  when we released the album and toured extensively on it. Even before we were signed to Wind Up, they were behind us on a lot of our touring, which was good. It was like we were part of the family even before we were signed.”
They recorded Something Supernatural with super producer Machine (Lamb of God, Clutch) in Austin, TX at The Machine Shop. Working together, they were able to create a strong sounding record that exceeded their expectations.
“This was the debut with him. He found us at South By Southwest. It was all by chance we got together. He was a huge fan of the band and saw us a bunch before we started pre-production. We recorded for two months. It was really awesome. He knew exactly what we were going for and how to get it.”
In a nutshell, Crobot has an older blues rock sound with a modern vibe that fans of big riff rock can immediately get into.
“We all started off with the same influences. We learned our instruments through our parent’s music. Especially me – I learned to play guitar by listening to what my mom was listening to. Especially in the beginning almost all musicians learn Zeppelin songs and Sabbath songs and Hendrix. A lot of people stray away from that but we always kept that our number one priority for us. We always loved that kind of music. We always loved groove music, like Clutch is my favorite band. It’s a huge influence on us and it’s the groove and the simplicity of the riff is very important for Crobot.”
One aspect that is not often heard recently is the harmonica, which Yeager plays on a couple of songs on the album. While mainly strictly blues oriented artists were better known for utilizing this within their songs, Crobot was encouraged to try something different within their songs.
“We were always a bluesy based band. The harmonica was something that Brandon [Yeagley] always did. There were a couple songs that we played it on. Machine was all about it. He really encouraged him to play harmonica and it was really awesome. I’m really happy with the two tracks. Actually one of the tracks didn’t get released on the album, and will be out at some point.”
While Bishop sites artists such as Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix as influences, he does rave about some newer bands who have shaped his playing style as well.
“Definitely Clutch for me, being the guitar player and writing riffs. I always love the funk of Tim Sult’s playing and how he uses effects to make a little trippy and being more of a groove guitar player than a shred guitar player. I’ve always liked player like that.”
“Even when you look at bluesier guitar players like Hendrix, he’s a feel player. His feelings are in his bends and he’s very melodic. His rhythm playing is not just playing super fast and ripping through everything. Most of my favorite players, like Bob [Balch] from Fu Manchu and Tim Sult from Clutch – they’re all groove players. That’s what I want to be.”
Bishop explained the odd sounding band name. Much like their sound, their name is somewhat of a play on words about how they heard their own sound as becoming the band moniker.
“We had a few different names we were tossing around. We didn’t like any of them. I asked my buddy Dave Ashton about band names and he was like ‘so what do you sound like?’ I said we were playing some Crowbar-y type riffs with robotic effects. Then he was like ‘Oh…Crobot.’ That was pretty awesome, so we kept it.”
Ironically they shared a stage with Crowbar, which he was a huge fan of. “We just played with them [Crowbar] a few days ago. It was awesome. I met Kirk [Windstein] and the rest of the band were really, really cool to us. They really enjoyed the band. Watching them play was like listening to the devil’s soundtrack. It was so awesome!”
While Crobot has a dirty bluesy rock sound that the music world is growing familiar with, there is one place they have yet to spend much time in that their brand of music was popularized in.
“Not really. We’ve travelled through it a couple of times. We’ve only been to the West Coast twice. It was awesome driving through the desert. We would listen to Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age going through it. It seemed fitting.”
Interview By Rei Nishimoto
The second set of tour dates supporting last year’s highly successful Earth Rocker (Weathermaker) opus see’s Clutch riding a high having one again reaffirmed their status as one of rock finest live acts currently treading the boards.
The met is still disconcertingly quiet when support act Lionize begin their set, but their funk infected grooves impress punters early on. Chris Brooks and Nate Bergman deliver some rich vocal harmonies. Clutch’s Jean Paul Gaster even joins the band briefly on percussion yet while its clear their label bosses have been a forbearer for Lionize sound they retain a feel all of their own. Hell they even manage to get away with dropping a bit of reggae without sounding laughable or trite.
When father Neil Fallon begins the sermon the congregation has joined us in full swing. ‘The Mob Goes Wild’ lives up to its name, with frantic dancing breaking out en masse. Such is the energy that the Maryland quartet inspire that the crowd keeps singing even when Tim Sult’s guitar cuts out half way through ‘Crucial Velocity’.
The charm and charismatic presence of Fallon certainly means he is the wide eyed focal point yet the musicians around him lock into a groove that is irresistible. ‘The Elephant Riders’ makes a welcome appearance, making good on the reputation Clutch have of keeping their lives shows fresh and invigorating. The acoustic ‘Gone Cold’ provides a break from the raucousness allowing Fallon to show off his soulful side before a storming ‘Struck Down’ picks the pace back up.
Considering Neil Fallon was recently a whisker away from being unable to perform following an operation on his spine which meant a delicate operation which meant his windpipe having to be moved temporarily in the process his performance is, if anything even more driven and passionate.
A four song encore concludes with the one, two punches of ‘Electric Worry’ and ‘One Eye Dollar’ which leave many drenched in sweat smiling in unison. Tonight may not have gone without a hitch, but when you’re a journeyman act with a discography few can match and perform with such vigour and zeal you can do very little wrong.
WORDS BY ROSS BAKER
PHOTOS BY EMMA STONE