June 11, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe
Why? Because Clutch don’t have casual fans. Known as Gearheads (get it?) Since their debut Pitchforks E.P. Clutch have constantly evolved with every release; moving from Punk, to Stoner, to Rock, Metal, and for settling with a Bluesier sound, but all the while taking their dedicated fans along for the ride.
Blast Tyrant (Its full title reads Blast Tyrant’s Atlas of the Invisible World Including Illustrations of Strange Beasts And Phantoms) represented a new chapter in Clutch’s history. Their first album to be recorded digitally, the sound was crisper, the band was sharper and in Ghost and Regulator they showed a mellower side with their first acoustic songs.
The album was the most successful up to that point and led to a run of quality albums in Robot Hive/Exodus and From Beale Street To Oblivion. Blast Tyrant was a step forward, and deservedly one of the most critically acclaimed. A good chunk of the album is still played live, The Mob Goes Wild and Cyprus Grove still sound as fresh and exciting as they did back in 2004.
Opening with the fiery Mercury, it sets the tone for the whole album. It’s heavy metal, through a rock filter, and a dose of funky guitar work with Neil Fallon’s unmistakable voice belting out sly and surreal lyrics over the top. From Guinness-drinking choirs and rock and roll excess to
organ donation and army defection, the quality is sky high throughout and essential for everyone who calls themselves a fan of rock.
So how do you improve on one of the strongest statements in your back catalogue? By adding an extremely interesting curios of a bonus disc, Basket of Eggs.
Essentially two separate E.P.s sewn together, it’s like an odd time machine. The first half is old Clutch (plus one new cover) songs made acoustic and more bluesy, in the style that they play today, while the second is the Blast Tyrant demos, allowing the fans to see how far the songs really came along from start to finish.
The one truly new track, a cover of Cousin Joe’s Boxcar Shorty’s Confession, a lively blues song that’s more in tune with the direction Clutch are taking nowadays. Fallon has never been shy of his love of old Blues, and it’s a nice little number, short and sweet and good fun. The other older acoustic tracks vary in quality. Regulator was already acoustic and the new blues style phrasing loses some of the power of the original, likewise the ballad-esque Basket of Eggs loses some of the magic of the original, but both are still enjoyable. Tight like that and Drink to the Dead get a proper reworking, becoming old fashioned drinking songs and are easily on par with the originals, if not better. Both are a testament to their old songwriting talent and their skills as musicians today.
The second half is a completely different beast. It’s like taking the new(ish) songs of Blast Tyrant and taking them back to the days of Jam Room and Elephant Riders, the lyrics are different and the songs were obviously recorded analogue, so they sound far more raw. It’s alot of fun learning the new lyrics, and shows how far the songs came during the recording process. And it’s not hard to imagine that the album would have been just as good (albeit completely different) if they had released it much earlier.
Fans will lap this up, and give them something to argue about on whether the newer-souding, older songs or the older-sounding, newer sounding songs are better, and it’s a great place to start for newcomers, as it gets the balance of the heavyness of old and the southern groove that appeared later just right.
As for my friend, does he think it was worth it after paying all the money? “Of course, I even got a bumper sticker”.
Also at: http://www.streetnortheast.com/music/album-reviews/clutch-blast-tyrantbasket-of-eggs/