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Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Reviews: Clutch, The Pineapple Thief, Seasick Steve, Dream Child (Reviews By Paul H & Matt)

Clutch: Book Of Bad Decisions (Weathermaker Music) [Paul H]

It’s becoming a challenge to find superlatives for the Maryland four-piece whose long awaited 12th album fulfils all expectations. Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, Dan Maines and Jean Paul Gaster continue to follow their own destiny, creating songs which fit with their own passion and vision. They don’t follow trends, they simply produce quality music. It is something you can only admire them for. After the success of 2013’s Earth Rocker and 2015’s Psychic Warfare, both albums that one could call more accessible than the previous releases, Clutch have not retreated one step but instead have expanded their repertoire once more.

Book Of Bad Decisions certainly offers variety. At times the band are harking back to the ferocity of their early punk-edged almost hardcore sound, Gimme The Keys, or maintaining their cutting-edge narrative on the aggressive politically astute How To Shake Hands and pushing the boundaries with a huge brass section on the magnificent In Walks Barbarella. Fallon’s lyrical genius has never been questioned, but he excels on this tune: “Defcon Tractor Beams, Weaponised Funk, In Walks Barbarella, Set To Stun”. Weaponised funk! Brilliant stuff. The arrangement here is superb, and alongside Lionize’s Chris Brooks who adds sultry thick Hammond B3 organ, we find percussion from Mike Dillon, the tenor and baritone saxophone of Kevin Gatzke, Vinnie Ciesielski’s trumpet and trombone from Roy Agee, all sweetly arranged by Gatzke. Brooks adds keys on four tracks, suitable weight and heft on Emily Dickinson, as well as the title track, Sonic Counselor and of course In Walks Barbarella as well as subtler piano on Vision Quest and Wurlitzer on Hot Bottom Feeder.

Emily Dickinson offers delight in its variation, the chunky riffs at the start giving way to a mellow conclusion. Of course, as always, with Clutch it’s the sum of the parts. Gaster’s freestyle drumming has a sound big enough to remind you of Bonham, describing Maines steady bass lines as reliable is about as big a compliment as you can pay and Sult’s guitar work mesmerises and hypnotises once more, textured layers disguised underneath his laid-back style yet his work is also crucially vibrant. Meanwhile Fallon remains the ultimate rock wordsmith, his oratory flowing like a raging preacher on a street corner but with a much more important message. Take A Good Fire: “I remember hearing Sabbath for the first time, When I was thirteen years old, A large field outside Damascus, in the grip of October’s cold, Alder birch cedar boxwood pine, who among us can deny? We love a good fire”. 

At 56 minutes and 15 songs you could argue that Book Of Bad Decisions is maybe a song or two too long but tracks like H.B. Is In Control (The H.B. standing for Hieronymus Bosch) and Hot Bottom Feeder retain all the groove and fire of classic Clutch. Book Of Bad Decisions is an album that deserves multiple plays to appreciate. It is pacey, laden with groove, clever changes and astute lyrics. It’s been three years. It has been worth the wait. Clutch is synonymous with quality and consistency. A fine album to add to an already amazing body of work. 10/10

The Pineapple Thief: Dissolution (Kscope) [Paul H]

For a band now on its 12th album, The Pineapple Thief show absolutely no signs of stagnation. 2016’s Your Wilderness was a fabulous release, as crisp and delicate as freshly fallen snow. Dissolution moves the bar forward once more, with the songwriting of Bruce Soord creative and fresh, allowing the band to demonstrate both subtle gentility as well as the harder elements which runs through the spine of this release. Dissolution is 43 minutes of sheer brilliance, with a fusion of rock, jazz, electronica scattered liberally amongst the inevitable progressive style which is synonymous with their name. Crashing riffs on Far Below and Threatening War nestle comfortably alongside the harmonies of Soord and long-standing members Jon Sykes and Steve Kitch. With Gavin Harrison returning to the drum stool for the second time, the rhythm section is assured throughout, and the musicianship is as one would expect, stunning. 

The masterpiece of this magnificent release is White Mist, a quite astonishing penultimate track that is sheer perfection. With legendary American guitarist David Torn adding guitar, the 11 minutes weave and move organically; part Floyd, part Porcupine Tree but most definitely The Pineapple Thief. The acoustically beautiful intro to final song Shed A Light provides the perfect antidote to the stirred emotions of White Mist, before an electric outburst spikes the middle section, acoustic and electric sections then duel to close the album flawlessly. I’ve listened to this album continuously since it was released, and it continues to provide delicious moments of almost insatiable quality; much like that first drink after a thirsty hike, soaking up Dissolution is a moment that leaves you desperate for the same again. I didn’t think that the band could improve on Your Wilderness. Dissolution might just be their finest hour. 10/10

Seasick Steve: Can U Cook? (BMG) [Matt]

Something of a phenomenon this is Steve Wold's ninth full length album, the man known as Seasick Steve is something of an enigma with very D.I.Y aesthetic to his 'hobo blues' his guitars are homemade, his voice is weathered by years of travelling and his songs are usually tales of his colourful life. Since he was 'discovered' by his performance on Jools Holland's Hootenanny show, his career has been on an upward trajectory because his honest and irreverent homegrown blues. Opening with Hate Da Winter it's a self explanatory title about hating the winter (I would too if I had to live on the streets as Steve did during his youth) it's a marked difference from the early record which was just him his collection of odd stringed instruments and his Mississippi Drum Machine stomp box.

Here he has his now long term drummer Dan Magnusson a.k.a. Crazy Dan on drums and former Black Crowes slide guitar ace Luther Dickinson, it's the title track that show Dickinson's slide prowess adding a country funk to the fuzzy riff. As with all Seasick Steve records there's a melting pot of the USA's musical styles here with blues, soul, boogie, folk and Americana all catered for, his Dylanesque lament of the modern world Last Rodeo is a harmonica infused piece of folk, things get a sparse and moody for Chewin On Da Blues however Shady Tree is a bit more traditional, on the other hand Lay has a bit of drum and bass to it. Numerous styles on offer but all definitely Seasick Steve, look out for him on tour later this year, Steve's doing the cooking you bring the wine. 8/10

Dream Child: Until Death We Do Meet Again (Frontiers Records) [Matt]

Dream Child is a band formed Dio, Dio Disciples and Resurrection Kings guitarist Craig Goldy, (it was the nickname Ronnie have him) he was apparently discussing Rainbow's first two albums and how no one makes music like that any more when he was asked by Serafino to see if he could do it. Drawing on his time touring with the great man you can hear that the Dio influence comes through from the first track to the last, much if this is due to Goldy's guitar playing/arrangements and the vocals of Diego Valdez who sounds an awful lot like the RJD, his soulful snarl would sound perfect screaming Neon Knights or Holy Diver.

It's a bit of reunion this record Goldy has managed to get Rudy Sarzo (Dio, Ozzy, Whitesnake) on bass, former MSG man Wayne Findlay on guitar/keys and behind the kit is Simon Wright (Dio, ex-AC/DC) so three of the five members of this band have performed with Dio which is probably why the record harks back to those classic Dio days. You Can't Take Me Down has thumping Rainbow-like groove with Valdez giving his all, Under The Wire does pinch the keyboard riff from Tubular Bells but it's snorting opener setting the tone for some classic metal. The record is essentially a celebration of the career of RJD with the songs working from Rainbow, through Sabbath to his solo career, lovingly crafted by those who have actually played with him, it's better than Last In Line or Resurrection Kings (mainly due to the vocals) making it a very good listen if you're a fan of Dio in anyway! 8/10 

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