Having a fast machine is more important to Neil Fallon than just about anything. Well-meaning people keep telling the Clutch front man he has to change his evil ways on the track “Crucial Velocity” from the groove-metal champions’ newest flaming chunk of blistering, no bullshit rock ‘n’ roll Earth Rocker, that deceit leads to jail time and his cheating heart is going to get him into hot water one day.
Fallon isn’t worried about it. He can always jump into his “Rocket 88, the fastest in the land” and drive away. They’ll never catch him, not with the slightly fuzzed-out, turbo-charged “Crucial Velocity” on the radio, at least. One of the best driving songs since Fu Manchu’s “Mongoose,” it practically demands that you step on the gas, even if your radar detector says you shouldn’t. So does “Unto the Breach,” another satisfying, hell-on-wheels riff fest that turns on the afterburners and squeals its smoking tires before racing down the straightaway at unsafe speeds.
And that’s the direction on Clutch’s GPS for Earth Rocker. It is always pointed straight ahead, and there are very few detours, aside from the cosmically soulful “Gone Cold” Clutch roasts slowly on a spit over some cowboy’s campfire on a cold desert night. Trimming the blues fat from their most recent releases, Clutch adopts a leaner, more aggressive stance on Earth Rocker, even if the Texas two-stepping boogie and outlaw attitude of the revenge fantasy “Book, Saddle & Go” rolls up a fatty of Tres Hombres-era ZZ Top and inhales deeply.
Tempos vary on Earth Rocker, as the stoner-metal heaviness, funk grooves and wah-wah radiance of “The Face” and “Mr. Freedom” – gurgling like a bong – chug along with rugged precision, organically growing ever more powerful and seductive, while “Cyborg Bette” sounds like Canned Heat on amphetamines and the full-throated roar of the title track takes full advantage of Clutch’s limitless horsepower. Primal and loud, these witches’ brews of chemically-induced mayhem mix screamingly efficient guitar solos from Tim Sult, forceful vocals, hammering riffs and diverse rhythms to make potent magic.
Lyrically vicious, defiant, outlandishly absurd and unapologetic about anything, Earth Rocker is the voice of a modern-day warrior battling the forces of conformity and complacency and doing so while firing up a musical vehicle that is not only built for speed, but also for effortless and subtle shifts in dynamics. Get in and go for a ride. There is plenty of room in this Rocket 88.