Friday, November 21, 2008

Believe A Word. The Clutters Are It

The Clutters

Don't Believe A Word
Chicken Ranch Records

I've said it before. I'll say it again. There's tons of great rock 'n' roll out there being made in so many places. However, that means that there's great stuff coming out of places where you'd least expect it. The Clutters are a perfect illustration of that. They're from Nashville! One could come up with all kinds of explanations, but in large cities, maybe access to good music and more competition drive people to create great music. In the case of a less likely locale, maybe one has to be so damn good that they make people stand up and take more notice. The Clutters fit the latter description. Their about as loud and raunchy and fun as it comes, but very distinctive. Unfortunately with all this great music out there, one always doesn't catch wind of it while it's "new", but the great thing about rock 'n' roll is if it's that good, it's going to sound new no matter how long ago it was made. Don't Believe A Word came out in late Spring last year. However, there's always really cool stuff that flies under your radar and you end up kicking yourself that you didn't hear of it earlier. I've been kicking myself an awful lot lately.

Don't Believe A Word is a serious shot in the arm. "9999 (Ways To Hate Us)" is primal garage punk guitar overlayed with Farfisa that sometimes sounds like '60s garage and other times, drifts into '80s new wave/punk with an almost Devo based quirkiness. This is only enhanced by the vocals that pull out one's soul because it sounds nerdy. However, the album doesn't list vocal credits. The smart high school reject (that's me. I hope that's most of you, too) got a band together that rocks harder and is just too damn good for the popular masses. I wish it were that simple. It's not. "Radio" is a perfect new wave offspring of '60s garage with it's distorted powerchords and an infectious chorus that I challenge you to get out of your head, but the keyboard melody is atonal and will automatically draw up the same Devo reference out of it's weirdness but with a loud attitude that went against musical convention and therefore, turned less individualistic tastes off. At the same time, we now recognize a real genius in that because it's a style that very few people did because it's a challenge not only to do it right, but to one's ears unless they really want to hear something different. Although they don't sound anything like them, early Oingo Boingo comes to mind because they were pioneering in adding that musical wierdness of seemingly discordant keyboard and guitar melodies into clever and catchy songs. One's quickly and violently thrown away from that after "Radio." The rest of the album is some of the most abrasive and raunchy garage rock party music one could be subjected to.

"Living Thing" rocks like Detroit with it's buzz guitars and beat heavy onslaught with blues tinges. "Rockaway" offers up a great critique of the rock mainstream that we can all identify with

We came to get down, we came to get down
We heard the word, it was all over town
She said
I want to know what rock 'n' roll was
'cause all you ever gave me was a bit of a buzz

This is of course followed up with a lot of Ramones fun 'Hey Heys' that I can only say are yelled "with feeling." "Fire" is a bit of an oddity with all it's tempo changes and it's slow blues moments followed by fast beats and screams, but then with the lyrics and the overall tone, I felt a sudden hard lump in my throat after realizing it could have been a song that The Gun Club would have been very proud of. One thing that one really can't escape with with The Clutters Don't Believe A Word is that tempo changes, hard beats, and guitars that alternate between throbbing chords and abrasive screeches is Pixies territory, but like it was previously noted, a well known rock 'n' roll style that moves around a center but goes in different directions is very hard to duplicate. Everyone loves The Pixies, but almost nobody can play their basic rock 'n' roll in a loud and obnoxious form that is also complex, so they've had many admirers, but very few duplicates. The Clutters are expert in that approach, but the farfisa/keyboards and heavier drumming make them a lot more fun by adding a much needed breath of fresh air into the whole garage theme. Besides "Temperature" is filled with the loudest, fuzziest bass one could stand to listen to, and it's damn good.

Most songs are surprises on Don't Believe A Word. The styles and influences mentioned above are a good illustration of that. It might not be something that everyone can really understand, but there's a good way of summarizing the approach. If one understands a hint of where someone like Mick Collins is coming from when he plays his special brand of fuzzed out rock 'n' roll that draws in everything from Motown to obscure pop like The Sparks and makes it all his own, one would definitely understand and revel in how great The Clutters are. However, there are plenty of those out there who absolutely love his music but not the influences like he does, so if one just wants to have super '60s garage fuzz with a stronger punk abrasiveness and like to scream out songs and rock out, Don't Believe A Word is perfect for that, too. Otherwise, you'll end up kicking yourself like me for not giving them a better listen to earlier. If you don't take my word, there are plenty of notables who expressed the same emount of shock and enthusiasm on The Clutters.

Don't Believe A Word is available on CD at Chicken Ranch Records and from the label/distributor that has just about every great current indie garage label stuff, Get Hip Recordings.

"9999 (Ways To Hate Us)


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