Monday, August 17, 2009

Clutch - Strange Cousins From the West

Strange Cousins From the West

Several years ago, a directionless young lady about a decade my junior tried to turn me on to Clutch. I didn’t listen, not trusting her taste. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have dug the Maryland band’s 90s work anyway – Clutch didn’t exactly invent nĂ¼-metal, but it inadvertently had a hand in it. But I jumped on the runaway train with the mighty rawk juggernaut that is Pure Rock Fury, and have been ridin’ them rails ever since. Since that album is probably the band’s – hell, maybe anybody’s – ultimate heavy rock statement, Clutch has spent the succeeding albums exploring subtlety, leavening the big-ass riffs with a swinging, fluid groove derived from the blues. Indeed, you could make the case that on Strange Cousins From the West the group has evolved from its stoner/hardcore hybrid into an eccentric blues rock monster. Regardless, it’s still the songwriting that lifts Clutch up from the muck ‘n’ mire – the combination of frontdude Neil Fallon’s witty wordage and Tim Sult, Dan Maines and Jean Paul Gaster’s graceful stomp & slash is one of the rock world’s more potent brews. Check The Amazing Kreskin, Freakonomics and 50,000 Unstoppable Watts for some primo thud. Wrapped in a beautifully designed cover that makes getting the physical product more than a prelude to uploading, Strange Cousins From the West is very hip (not hipster) classic rock.

- Michael Toland

Assjack - s/t


As probably most every reprobate knows, Hank Williams III has led a double musical life, with one face in the stripped-to-the-bone country & western of his grandpappy’s legacy and the other in the vein-popping punk metal of his youth. (And both faces sporting wild-eyed sneers.) Assjack is his first widely available disk devoted to the latter, named for the band he uses on stage (but not in the studio, preferring to blast away by himself) to hammer that shit into unsuspecting audiences’ ear-holes. III’s always had a mean-eyed cat side to him; on cuts like Choking Gesture, Redneck Ride and Tennessee Driver, that feline leaps on your fact, clawing, spitting and biting your eyebrows off. His cowboy hat flying off his head, III thrashes away with gleeful abandon, throwing fierce metal riffs, powerhouse drumming (the record’s greatest strength – Lars Ulrich better watch his back) and his southern-fried, F-bomb-laden yowl around like the Hulk shotputting boulders. It could all be an exercise in solipsistic dilletantism, but it makes me thrash my head back and forth, pump my fist, play air drums ‘n’ geetar and even mosh around the room. And I never fuckin’ mosh. Assjack ain’t the C&W/death metal fusion III’s been threatening for years, but it’s what I always wished Pantera had sounded like.

- Michael Toland
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