Clutch - _Robot Hive / Exodus_
(DRT, 2005)
by: Paul Schwarz (9.5 out of 10)
Stoner rock was always too simple and yet also too specific a categorisation for Clutch. Ill-encapsulating what the Maryland band were a decade ago -- when they made their much-celebrated eponymous sophomore disc -- it is hopelessly inadequate today. For though Clutch undoubtedly combine well with 'the evil weed', in more than one sense, they are not a 'stoner' band. A truly individual proposition, Clutch embrace rock 'n' roll in a broad yet grounded and gritty manner. Each of their releases since 1999's _Jam Room_ has expanded upon and successively rejuvenated their strangely Southern Fried sound, 2003's _Blast Tyrants_ providing the band with their second bonafide masterpiece in as many decades.

Yet with _Robot Hive_ Clutch have managed to side-step the unenviable task of following up such an album directly by instead moving on -- tapping a new and somewhat different but equally rich musical vein which sees them utilise new tools and reveal hitherto only hinted at sources of influence and inspiration. Letting their taste for funk and boogie reign freer than ever before, Clutch most prominently allow themselves to explore the blues which is at their collective heart. This exploration is at its most naked in the album's closing couplet, comprising Clutch's own Delta-drenched jam entitled "Gravel Road" (featuring lyrics penned by Mississippi Fred McDowell) and a characteristic, charged cover of Howlin' Wolf's classic "Who's Been Talking?". Emblematic of the newfound openness for exploring traditional paths by new routes which permeates _Robot Hive_ as a whole, these two tracks say much about Clutch which previously remained unspoken.

It has been evident for an age that Clutch at their best write songs, and indeed albums, which resonate with that special magneticism rock and metal milestones all alike possess. Turning the catchiness right up to 10, they here carve perhaps the most highly crafted songs of their fifteen year history -- uitilising newly recuited Hammond B3 player Mick Shauer to stunning effect in broadening their sound, yet never forgetting the hammer-blow heavy blues chops which are their bread and butter. The variation is stunning, especially when one steps back to contemplate the flawless whole _Robot Hive_ represents. If the chances that we might well see an even finer album emanate from this same source with six months were not so high, the only number to attach to this album would be a 10.

(article published 30/1/2006)

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7/8/1998 A Bromley Slayer / Clutch / System of a Down Slayed, Once Again
8/12/1996 A Bromley Clutch / Orange 9mm / Fu Manchu Clutching Onto the Last Orange
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