Friday, November 21, 2008

Review: Clutch - Full Fathom Five (Audio Field Recordings 2007-2008)

Label: Weathermaker Music (distributed by MVD)

Released: September 15, 2008

As a studio band, Clutch has released several of my all-time favorite albums, but those came out a decade or more ago. As a live band, Clutch has never satisfied me. Their dynamic heavy groove that sets them apart from the field of Sabbath and space rock devotees that have popped up over the last 20 years has never been there when I see them in person and that, coupled with how much I've loved some of their albums, has been a tremendous letdown. But Clutch is a weird, wild band that builds on the craziest parts of heavy music, conspiracy theory, history and mysticism, so anything is possible at any time.

The opener, "The Dragonfly," led me to believe the worst about the album. It's hard to imagine that they could turn such a song flat and dull. The rhythms are plodding, the riffs quiet and the vocals out-of-sync. This is just what my live experience had been with the band and I was disappointed that I wasn't wrong. However, things pick up as the album moves along. By the time they get to "Cypress Grove," they've loosened up and the sense that Clutch is just a little bit off their rockers starts to come out in the song's maniacal groove. A few songs later, they tear through a version of "The Yeti" that makes a case to stand beside the studio version of perhaps the best song they ever wrote. The three final tracks, "Mr Shiny Cadillackness," "Electric Worry" and "One Eye Dollar," finish the album in a whirlwind that is one part Baptist minister, one part old blues musician on the street corner al with a heavy presence of their own unique psychedelic monster.

The albums tracks are gathered from four separate shows and the fades between tracks sadly emphasize this. However, it does gather steam as the band loosens up over the course of the album and, unlike just about any other live album compiled from multiple shows, has a real sense of what a show is like, rather than just a bunch of songs played live.

Satriani: 7/10
Zappa: 8/10
Dylan: 10/10
Aretha: 7/10
Overall: 8/10



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