3/29/13 Showbox Market, Seattle, WA – Clutch was a band that came out of the post-hardcore days of the early 90s when bands like Helmet and Quicksand were making a name for themselves. When I first heard Clutch I knew they were to be taken seriously. The first album was called “Transitional Speedway League”, featured a deerhoof lamp on its cover and my favorite song from it was “Binge and Purge”. A song that ended with the chant “Come on Motherfucker, come on motherfucker, come on motherfucker, LET’S THROW DOWN” growl-screamed by the incomparable Neil Fallon.
That sealed it for me, these guys were for real as a menacing hardcore band. I loved it. I got into their 2nd self-titled album in college, but kind of lost touch w/ them after that. I think I assumed that their amazing sound continued from album to album, that they were forever this great hardcore band with a little big of southern swagger thrown in.
And they still are, but so much more. They have over 10 albums to date, the latest “Earth Rocker” came out this year. I caught up on many of the records while I was preparing for the show and was pleasantly surprised at how varied their catalog was. They were staying true to their roots but had clearly become (always were?) musicians who weren’t afraid to explore.
Across their catalog they honed in on their southern tinged hardcore sound, had some jamb band explorations, added horns at times, went southern-rap on one track, added a keyboardist – all things I did not expect from them at all. I had them in this neat little box of hardcore and they expanded a lot on me. All of it good, but some of it hard to wrap my ears around cause it was so unexpected.
I went with a friend who had gotten into them later in their career and was looking forward to a whole different part of their show. Fun how two people can have such different experiences w/ the same band. What I was really curious about was how Neil Fallon’s voice was going to hold up. His amazing and unabashed growl is a big draw to Clutch for me and I wondered how it was holding up these days and how long he could keep it going at a live show.
While he’s got the gravitas to go for it, he’s also got the brains enough to take care of it. He had plenty of water and mints of some sort on stage w/ him and was taking good care of his instrument. He didn’t seem like a dick either. Others in his shoes might be taken to posturing or being bored. That they are above all of this. That they are a badass. This guy is a badass, but one who throws the cord of the mike around his neck, claps along with the song, dances a bit, grabs the tambourine, just has his own fun with it. I loved that.
Then we have the guitarist – Tim Sult – who looks like my dad, just not trying to be cool or hip in any way. Not even aware that those states of being exist. He holds the neck of his guitar up close to his face, hangs hit gut out there and quietly kills it. Dirge rock, ripping rhythms, awesome solos. He’s the most understated guy in a band like this.
I love the show, but I could barely stay awake. I came back from a week-long trip to LA that covered two TV shoots and the night before had been an epic LA sendoff with friends and coworkers that went into the wee hours of the morning. I was practically a zombie at the show. Which was in direct contrast to how I was feeling on the inside about the show. It was great. One criticism is that it was a bit short. Would like to see them again and have them play like a 2.5 hour set. That would cover a lot of great ground.
All of this together, Neil’s aplomb, the experimentation across their career, makes Clutch the most adventurous “hardcore” band out there. Check them out if you don’t know them yet.