Clutch's locomotive blues-rock strut has long owed debts to hard rock antecedents such as Thin Lizzy and Motörhead, if only as stylistic signposts. But Earth Rocker, the tenth album from the Maryland quartet, drew direct inspiration from tours with the aforementioned acts, staking out a sweet spot between the former's head-bobbing boogie and the latter's thunderous chug. Frontman Neil Fallon grew up viewing those bands strictly as heavy metal acts. He couldn't appreciate their connection to Little Richard and Chuck Berry.
"When I was 18, that didn't make any sense to me," he admits. "Now I find it pretty inspirational and informative to see this very clear lineage. That was in the back of our head with Earth Rocker."
Every song on this back-to-basics album was honed on a concert stage, where it was boiled down to its irreducible base and then given Clutch's peculiar psych-blues twist. From the cowbell-laden cock-rocker "D.C. Sound Attack" to hot-blooded hard-funk booty-shaker "Cyborg Bette," the material wouldn't feel out of place on a classic rock radio station. It even features a sharp mid-album ballad, "Gone Cold," which sits like the soft caramel at the center of a hard-candy shell.
Shaped on the stage, these songs belong in rock clubs, says Fallon. They won't garner a boatload of new adherents, but that's what the concerts are for. There, the energy of the band and crowd conspire in a head-banging vortex. That's how they've built their audience over 24 years—show by show.
"Touring has been the best education possible," he says. "I always thought people would be different in California, in Germany, but at the end of the day, you put a lot of people in a dark room with beer and loud music and it's a great equalizer."—Chris Parker