Drenched in whiskey and cheap cigarette smoke, Clutch’s ninth studio album is a scorcher of Southern-fried rock worthy of countless summertime porch-sittin’ spins.
Strange Cousins from the West comes infused with a heavy blues-rock elixir that fans of bands like The Black Keys will certainly dig. There’s a deep, awesomely soggy sense of funk working its way through this record too, sweetly coating every single note with thickness and importance.
Produced by J. Robbins, the cat behind the band’s 2005 Robot Hive/Exodus, Strange Cousins feels outrageously slick and funky. The songs are built on the backs of solid, stunning grooves and piled sky-high with Tim Sult’s exacting guitar riffs and vocalist Neil Fallon’s pressing concerns. Bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster proceed with astonishing precision, filling the lower registry with killer fills and sly bass grooves.
“Motherless Child” kicks things off with tremendous slide guitar and blasts through breathtaking tempo shifts and chunky riffs. “Sometimes I feel just like a wandering dog,” Fallon sings just before Sult kicks it up for a lethal solo.
Fallon plays with vocal pacing on the terrific “50,000 Unstoppable Watts.” Built on a constantly-shifting backdrop, he belts with the fervor of a drunken preacher and sharply adds afterthoughts as though the sermon isn’t quite finished yet.
Strange Cousins from the West unpacks track after track of glorious blues-rock. The record flows like a sludgy backwoods stream and Fallon is the bearded crazy shrieking while he brews up some moonshine. There’s something ultimately natural to this brand of straightforward funky rock, but there’s also a sinister edge to it that makes the whole album deliciously evil.
“Freakonomics” fires up with little ankle-biting guitar riffs and quickly introduces Fallon as our shouting-and-stamping hero from behind the Pulpit of Rock. He works into a frenzy and the band is only too happy to match his pace. Sult pilots the chaotic boogie-woogie through the storm.
Whether it’s cavernous rumbles that gulp down luckless victims like the sea (“Abraham Lincoln”) or wild funky grooves that set listeners to dancing (“The Amazing Kresken”), Clutch’s Strange Cousins from the West sure do make for damn fine company.