- Artist: Clutch
- Title: Robot Hive / Exodus
- Released: 2005
- Format: CD/Digital Download
- Genre: Hard Rock/Funk Rock
- Beverage of Choice: Hard Cider
Clutch have spent their entire almost 30-year career building a loyal fan base without any help from the mainstream music industry and, as such, are still a fairly well-kept secret, even to metal and hard rock lovers. I only turned on to their funky, hard-edged sound in the early 2000’s with the release of the excellent double vinyl album Blast Tyrant. Robot Hive was released the following year with Clutch adding a band member, keyboard wunderkind Mick Schauer, and immediately enlisted me as a lifelong fan in every sense of that overused and overloaded word. It was very sad to learn of Mick’s death in 2019 at the way-too-young age of 46, leaving the band and the world impoverished and mourning the loss of his talent.
Clutch inject both a lyrical and instrumental sense of humor into their work that is catchy, funky, heavy and intelligent all at the same time. Listen to songs like “Gullah“, “Pulaski Skyway” and “10001110101” and you’ll immediately understand. This is music for connoisseurs of alternative, clever and meticulously crafted heavy rock music.
The addition of Schauer’s Hammond and Wurlitzer organ sound to the mix, of course, cemented the deal for me , adding a Deep Purple element to some of the tracks and swinging like crazy on “Gravel Road” and “Small Upsetters“. Bandmates Tim Sult (guitar), Dan Maines (bass), Jean-Paul Gaster (drums) and Neil Fallon (vocals) lay down a solid groove with the guitars mixed way up front next to the vocals on most songs, providing an immediate blast of in-yer-face rock energy. The fact that the music is seriously intricate and layered can sometimes be lost in the rush of tempo and noise. Don’t be fooled, these guys are seriously smart and adept at arrangements that fill the head space with multidimensional (and well-engineered) sound.
Clutch naturally also have a blues-based influence (possibly all the way back to Zeppelin) along with the Sabbath down-groove and straight-ahead rock elements to their music. “Gravel Road” stands out with excellent slide guitar, percussion thunder and heavy, heavy organ vibe in the second half of the song that lifts it from standard blues progression to something Purple or Rainbow would kill to have on one of their albums.
The album concludes with another organ stroll, “Who’s Been Talking” that sounds like a Yardbirds track all grown up. With Fallon’s gruff and powerful vocals mixed a little bit further back, the song sounds like it was produced in the 60’s. Another smart touch demonstrating both the band’s virtuosity and total control of their sound. Clutch know exactly what they’re doing; it’s just a pity that most of the world isn’t paying any attention as they deserve a much wider audience… so spread the word.