Clutch - Book of Bad Decisions
Weathermaker Music
Hard/Stoner Rock
15 songs (56:54)
Release year: 2018
Clutch, Weathermaker Music
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Following up an excellent duo in 2015's Psychic Warfare and 2013's Earth Rocker, album number twelve from the Maryland band is as solid as you'd expect but a slight dip in quality. Not always does the manic intensity and twisted intelligence behind Neil Fallon's lyrics and vocals get matched by the music, but Psychic Warfare had enough energy and heaviness to make for a ludicrously fun concept album about a victim of said warfare, or a teller of very tall tales. Coming after that any release would feel lesser, but Book of Bad Decisions unfortunately manages to live up to its name. For one, it's long, and drags at points, over fifteen minutes longer than its predecessor and not nearly as infectious. For another, there's a more laid-back vibe, less 'metal' vibe that lacks the manic energy of Psychic Warfare, not helped by an imperfect production.

Still, as any fan of the band will know, they're remarkably good at cracking out good-time rock 'n' roll, and Book of Bad Decisions is no exception. Even unremarkable Clutch-on-autopilot tracks like Gimme the Keys and Weird Times are a lot of fun, and there's enough tracks that go out of the norm to keep things interesting. Spirit of '76 is slower and doomier, allowing the naturally bluesy tone to their sound to dominate and even sounding a little Sabbathy by the end, while How to Shake Hands is an early highlight with its entertaining lyrics about a dream presidential run ("First thing that I'm gonna do/Is disclose all those UFOs/Put Jimi Hendrix on the 20 Dollar bill/And Bill Hicks on a five note"). The album really comes alive at In Walks Barbarella, however, a horn section adding some welcome funkiness in the sort of experiment that really needs to happen more to freshen up the band's sound, and the following piano-backed boogie of Vision Quest is just as good. Emily Dickinson slows things down a little but doesn't lessen the intensity with some trombone and a Hammond B3 adding seasoning, that always underrated instrument popping up again on Sonic Counselor.

Yet there are at least five songs that could have been cut away, none quite stooping to the level of filler but definitely clogging up the running time a little. The second half of the album as a whole is inferior to the first, despite the presence of the downright genius Hot Bottom Feeder, a recipe for crab cakes that proves Fallon could sing more or less anything and make it sound enthralling. By the time you've reached finale Lorelei, the album is threatening to drag, and the feeling that the band are coasting starts to grow. Like all Clutch releases, Book of Bad Decisions has much to recommend it, not least yet another fantastic performance from one of the tightest rock musicians out there (Jean-Paul Gaster on the drums especially worthy of praise) but few will name it their favourite when the likes of Blast Tyrant and Psychic Warfare exist.

Killing Songs :
Spirit of '76, How to Shake Hands, In Walks Barbarella, Vision Quest, Hot Bottom Feeder
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Clutch that we have reviewed:
Clutch - Earth Rocker reviewed by Goat and quoted 81 / 100
Clutch - Robot Hive / Exodus reviewed by Goat and quoted 94 / 100
Clutch - Strange Cousins From The West reviewed by Goat and quoted 77 / 100
Clutch - Blast Tyrant reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
Clutch - From Beale Street To Oblivion reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
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