Monday, September 10, 2018

Monster Jams: Clutch - Book of Bad Decisions (released 9/7/2018)

Monster Jams: Clutch - Book of Bad Decisions (released 9/7/2018)

Clutch has released a new album, the latest advance in their quest to transition into a rock and blues band with some jazz influences popping up in the mix as well.  There are still moments when they display the fire and gusto that made them a force to be reckoned with in their wild and woolly days, but the band has clearly embraced restraint and nuance to go along with advanced musicality at this stage of their evolution.  This may or may not be a bad thing; the album definitely rocks, and even if there are boundaries in place and less ferocity than old school fans may yearn for, your average rock fan is more apt to enjoy Book of Bad Decisions from start to finish.  For many, this new approach may be preferable--if your opinion of the band has been rising since they started taking fewer risks and toning down their intensity (say somewhere between the release of Robot Hive/Exodus in 2005 and From Beale St. to Oblivion in 2007), you may rate this among the band's best offerings.  If, on the other hand, you greet each release from these former stoner rock titans with some measure of hope that the guns blazing glory of Elephant Riders will rise from the ashes, you're bound to be disappointed.  I fall somewhere between these two categories.  I enjoy the new flavor, and I can't dispute the fact that this is a quality album (though it must be stated that it offers more material but less punch than their 2015 album, Psychic Warfare), but I wouldn't dare put it up there with releases like the previously-mentioned Elephant Riders, Blast  Tyrant, or Transnational Speedway League.  Is the band more precise?  Absolutely.  Are they still doing it their own way and making raucous noise?  Certainly.  Does it compare to that era when they offered up wild exploration and deftly intertwined metal, funk, and something akin to rage in the first half of their discography?  Man, I don't think it's even close.  Still, Book of Bad Decisions is a tight collection with several killer grooves, and Neil is still spitting about absurd shit even if he has mellowed out a bit.  "Hot Bottom Feeder" and the title track even flirt with the notion of serving as throwbacks to the band's furious past.  Other standout tracks include "Gimme the Keys," "In Walks Barbarella," and "H.B. is in Control."

Final Grade: B-

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