It’s hard to imagine that Clutch have been around since 1991 with the same members (not counting the original vocalist who departed soon after the band’s formation). Book of Bad Decisions is their twelfth studio album, which is impressive given the lack of any lineup changes in that time. To say these guys gel perfectly as a group would be an understatement!
Book of Bad Decisions was recorded at Sputnik Studios in Nashville over a 3-week period by four-time Grammy winning producer Vance Powell (Seasick Steve, The White Stripes, and Arctic Monkeys, to name a few), so, it was safe to say, the new album was in capable hands. Powell even spent time on the road with the guys, watching them play live to get a feel for their music and how they connected with their audience at shows, all in the name of capturing the soul of a band who thrive on live performances.
Clutch has a talent for combining many different musical genres – including hard rock, metal, stoner rock, southern rock, blues and punk – into a unique style that only they can seem to pull off so well. It’s a form that lots of acts seek to emulate, but very few successfully master the skill of combining different genres in the way this Maryland quartet have done.
Watch the hilarious – and sadly poignant – video teaching wannabe politicians ”How To Shake Hands”.
Clutch can literally write a song about anything and make it sound great – case in point: “Hot Bottom Feeder” is a song about crab cakes, or, on a more serious note, “How to Shake Hands” is a ‘what if’ song about frontman Neil Fallon’s fictional run for US presidency. He states he will “put Jimi Hendrix on a $20 bill and Bill Hicks on the $5, there will be straight talk and no jive.” Conversely, opening track “Gimme the Keys” is a nostalgic nod by Fallon to the early days, specifically a show where the band needed to make a quick escape and, as Fallon puts it, “get the hell out of Dodge!”. Fallon has admitted that he is not really a man who looks back at the past, but, over the years, that has gradually changed and this song is clear evidence.
Like any Clutch record, there are a handful of highlights that hit home instantly – “Hot Bottom Feeder” contains the deep south blues-style twang that Tim Sult does so well on guitar. While, by-and-large, Clutch have stuck to their roots on Book of Bad Decisions – as they have on most of their discography – the unexpected can, and does, still happen. For instance, “In Walks Barbarella” utilises a horn section, adding a new angle to the group’s distinct sound.
“Hot Bottom Feeder”, probably the best song, possibly the only, written entirely about crab cakes.
All the songs on Book of Bad Decisions hit the mark and are as enjoyable as the next. Perhaps on first listen it will feel like any other Clutch album, but, given time, there are subtle differences that come to the surface. This records is a triumph; it captures the essence of Clutch and the sound that made them famous, yet also seeks out new elements to work alongside the blues rock/funk metal sound. It may not have taken the spot of favourite Clutch album (this honour still remains with Robot Hive/Exodus), but, like many of their releases, it is a very close call.
Book of Bad Decisions Track Listing:
01. Gimme the Keys
02. Spirit of ‘76
03. Book of Bad Decisions
04. How to Shake Hands
05. In Walks Barbarella
06. Vision Quest
07. Weird Times
08. Emily Dickinson
09. Sonic Counselor
10. A Good Fire
11. Ghoul Wrangler
12. H. B. Is in Control
13. Hot Bottom Feeder
14. Paper & Strife
Run Time: 55:53
Release Date: September 7, 2018
Record Label: Weathermaker Music