And on the drums, Gemini
On bass guitar, presenting, Pisces
On lead guitar, we have Aries
And on the microphone, Scorpio, go!!!! (X-Ray Visions)
I can’t think of a record I’ve had more fun with in recent times than Clutch Psychic Warfare. If you had to pick a single LP to embody all that’s groovy and fantabulousissima about rock music in 2017* then this is the one for me – it rocks dang hard (‘Firebirds’), it’s funny** (‘A Quick Death in Texas’), rousing (‘Son of Virginia’), clever (‘X-Ray Visions’) and it just rocks doubledang hard again (‘Noble Savage’). Proper music, for proper people.
Lead off single ‘X-Ray Visions’ just really kicks all manner of derrière right from the opening seconds on, searing riffs and wild lyrical flights of fantasy involving CIA psychic attack experiments, possession by the spirits of Ronald and Nancy Reagan and horoscopes. Whew! Just about the only topics I can think of that are missing from there are stamp collecting and chicken rearing. The band is so tight, locking into a really tight groove behind Neil Fallon’s bellicose amiability, with the kind of chops you only earn after playing a million gigs in a million cities. Scorpio, go!
My favourite track on Psychic Warfare today, an accolade that is very liable to change by sundown^ is the epic, ferocious, cowboy tinged rock of ‘Son of Virginia’. Fallon’s sounds like God passing judgment on the world on this one and the band really hit it hard as it builds and builds. I really do have no defences to this song and it’s line ‘I was thrown to the ground as my world broke asunder / Truly we are living in an age of wonder’ just slays me every time, for reasons I cannot quite put my finger on.
On a similar vein is the, appropriately, Texan flavoured ‘A Quick Death in Texas’, written as Psychic Warfare was being recorded in the titular state^^. Name-dropping Billy Gibbons, this track amusingly tells the tale of a Yankee’s bad end, the band are having so much fun right here that it’s truly infectious. Clutch are smart enough to realise that the aspect of ZZ Top that everyone misses when they pay tribute to them is their out-and-out loose funkiness, needless to say the boys add it here by the bucket load:
Just like Clutch I’ll play it fast and loose here, skip a few tracks and you get to the quite astonishing American gothic of ‘Our Lady of Electric Light’, set up by the short atmospheric instrumental ‘Doom Saloon’. It takes the form of a vaguely country-affected waltz, all drama light and shade, with lyrics that could mean everything or absolutely nothing at all. A lot of bands have 40 year careers without ever touching upon anything half as good as this. This is just perfection squared:
She enters the bar room
And lifts her veil
With a voice like running water
She tells them her tale
To follow this with the kamikaze rock of ‘Noble Savage’ is just great sequencing, let’s face it Clutch know what they’re about by now. This track just hurtles on past you, propelled by some particularly fine fretwork from Tim Sult, including a musical tilt of the hat to White Zombie. Simple and as effective as a kick in the head.
For the sake of brevity I have missed out a slew of good tracks here, but I’d encourage you to have a good explore by yourselves – there are two-legged dogs, seductive witches, decapitation and colossi to be discovered lurking hither and yon on Psychic Warfare. As I’ve said to anyone who’ll listen since I first thought of it 20 minutes ago, Clutch are rather unique denizens of our great musical continent of Rockadonia, they owe very little to the distant past, other than a brief stylistic nod or two, they are very much of here and very much of now. It’s nice to be able to type that.
So basically my message is, if you like music and/or fun then buy this LP and I guarantee it will make you happier and up to 12.91% foxier than you were. True story, I’d never lie to you, I’m a Scorpio, go!!
As a little twofer bonus thang here, I recently nabbed a RSD 2016 release by Clutch, where they released two outtakes from the Psychic Warfare sessions back into the wild. A limited edition, one-sided etched precious, precious artefact Mad Sidewinder / Outland Special Clearance was worth all the shekels I parted with for it^*. ‘Mad Sidewinder’ is a close cousin of their own ‘Earth Rocker’ all righteous chugging fury and some awesome playing from the rhythm section of Jean-Paul Gaster and Dan Maines in particular, there is a brilliant break-down section – this really rocks hard. Imagine Monster Magnet without the burnout.
Goal setting, overachieving, are not among my top priorities
A better lesson, keep ’em guessing, and celebrate diversity
Manipulators are allergic to soul, how I love to frustrate them
What better time than here and now, re-evaluate the situation.
Damned liberal pinko rock-types! Time to tell them where to get off with all their evil agenda peddling respect and decency! Which is a theme that permeates ‘Outland Special Clearance’ too with its mutterings about Alex Jones, chaos and warfare, it’s fine but it doesn’t come wrapped up in as good a tune as ‘ … Sidewinder’. Both tracks would have added to Psychic Warfare if they’d have made the cut and that is, from me, praise indeed.
PS: some exemplary video-making right here:
*I know it’s from 2015, but it casts a big enough shadow. So just lip up!
**always a prerequisite for greatness in my book.
^another definite indicator of a great album is when your fave track changes daily.
^^ha-ha, I said ‘titular’ again!
^*not too many to tell the truth, I still say if you don’t nab what you want on RSD just wait a bit until all the profiteers flock off and the prices come right down again, for most things.