I’ve actually heard someone accuse Clutch of making the same album over and over again. That’s something that gets tossed at a lot of acts – Bolt Thrower, AC/DC, Motörhead - but in this case it’s completely unwarranted. A band can, after all, have a signature sound while still exploring different or even adventurous avenues. Like the bands previously mentioned, however, Clutch does continue to put out dynamite record after dynamite record. “Strange Cousins from the West,” the band’s ninth studio album, continues the tradition of being distinctly Clutch while at the same time having a flavor all its own.
Yes, this is the same brand of blues-and-boogie drenched rock that Clutch have been distilling since 1991. Of course it is. If there were any doubt, the foot-stomping thump that swallows “Motherless Child”’s slide guitar intro five seconds into the album puts said doubt into a wood chipper. What follows is forty-five minutes of pure rock fury. There’s the kind of straight-ahead, honest groove that no other band really comes close to pulling off, but they throw a little spice into the mix. “Abraham Lincoln,” a downcast trudge lamenting the president’s fate contains some of the most straightforward lyrics you’ll ever see Neil Fallon pen. And check out “Algo Ha Cambiado,” which sees Fallon singing entirely in Spanish. But don’t worry, “Strange Cousins From the West” isn’t all left hand turns; “50,000 Unstoppable Watts” and the aforementioned “Motherless Child” wouldn’t sound out of place amongst the best cuts from previous Clutch albums.
Listening to this album, it’s easy to understand why Clutch has long been at the top of the heap amongst rock and metal connoisseurs. This is also the case with college brodudes, unfortunately. But really, anyone with an appreciation of good guitar-driven rock can get down with this. “Strange Cousins From the West” is as consistent and excellent as Clutch’s career arc, each song just as good as the next. That means no cherry-picking tracks from iTunes on this one; we’re looking at you, frat boy.