music / Columns

Jam Central Station: Clutch – Psychic Warfare Review

December 5, 2015 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski

Sometimes I feel the need to break the mold a bit and move away from “all jam, all the time” here. There’s lots of great music out there that you won’t necessarily find at Summer Camp, All Good, or Electric Forest. It’s easy to get stuck in the SiriusXM Jam On rut, and everyone needs to break out of that. So, as a way to do that, you’re actually going to get a little something different here this week (and again in a few weeks). You won’t find these guys on Jam On, although they have been at both Bonnaroo and Summer Camp. That’s right, the almighty Clutch just released an album, and you should be listening to it right now.

Clutch certainly isn’t your typical hard rock band. While they certainly have punk rock roots, nowadays their music trends towards solid southern and blues rock with excellent grooves. Neil Fallon is still spitting crazy lyrics about the occult or astrology, and his vocals are always entertaining. The band has been in a bit of a transition period over the past few albums as they moved into this newer style and sound. They’ve really hit their stride with Psychic Warfare, and it’s nice to hear the band so comfortable in their groove.

The album clocks in at a tight 40 minutes, and, with 12 songs to fit in, you’re not going to find many extended jams here. But the songwriting is solid, the grooves are there, and the band has just enough swagger and attitude to draw you in. “The Affidavit” serves as a simple intro track before things pick up with “X-Ray Visions” and “Firebirds.” These two tunes showcase Clutch’s heavy side and penchant for hooks in their music. The first segues seamlessly into the second, and they make a nice 1-2 punch. They follow up with the somewhat slower paced “A Quick Death in Texas,” which has one of my favorite grooves on the album.

Much of the middle of the album follows this more groove, southern, or blues base. “Sucker for the Witch” is faster paced but has a guitar tone that is less thrash metal and more blues rock. “Your Love is Incarceration” has a really unique guitar riff that comes across as a little schizophrenic at times, but, frankly, that’s just the type of band Clutch is from time to time. “Doom Saloon” is a dark instrumental that really serves as an intro to “Our Lady of Electric Light,” a dark plodding jam that almost sounds like a throwback to “Ghost” from Blast Tyrant.

The album picks up again with “Noble Savage,” a track that fits with the early part of the album. In fact, this may be the most hard-hitting track on the album, with rapid fire drums and the best guitar solo on the album. “Behold the Colossus” and “Decapitation Blues” split the difference in styles, with both being fast paced rockers that are indicative of where Clutch has gone on their past few albums. They’ve settled into a slightly less polished version of the bluesy hard rock band that they toyed with being on Beale Street and Strange Cousins from the West.. The closing song, “Son of Virginia” shows that they can still do that real methodical, slow, bluesy storytelling, but it sounds more honest than some of their other efforts in this style. It’s a great closing tune and probably the closest thing to an opus on the album.

Overall, I was very pleased with the focus that Clutch seemed to exhibit with Earth Rocker, after a pair of efforts that I didn’t enjoy as much as their previous efforts. Psychic Warfare not only continues that trend, but really builds upon it. While Earth Rocker felt like a career retrospective album, Psychic Warfare shows the band breaking new ground again and really feeling comfortable with the direction they’ve taken. The songs are all very solid, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they translate live. A great effort from a band that can appeal to fans of any genre.

Gathering of the Vibes to take a hiatus
Gathering of the Vibes will not be taking place in 2016. The festival organizers released a statement that, after 20 years, they need a “time out” to reevaluate and decide on what to do next. They did say that they are planning on returning in 2017, so hopefully we can look forward to that.

FloydFest adds artists
While other festivals are yet to even announce dates or ticket info, FloydFest is quietly putting together what is sure to be one of the best lineups of 2016. The festival added Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams & More Than A Little, Greensky Bluegrass, Femi Kuti & Positive Force, and many other bands to their 2016 event. The festival already includes Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, Railroad Earth, The Wood Brothers, Elephant Revival, and more.

Dark Star Jubilee announce dates
Dark Star Jubilee will return to Legend Valley in Thornville, OH over Memorial Day weekend. The event will run from May 27-29 and will again include three nights of Dark Star Orchestra. Other artists will be announced soon, and tickets are available at a discount right now.

Catskill Chill announce dates, new location
Catskill Chill will be moving in 2016. As previously announced, the festival has to change their location, and they’ll be heading to the Charles Wood Park in Lake George, NY over September 30-October 2 next year. They will also be announcing a new name to coincide with the location change.

Lotus announces dates
Lotus announced their first headlining 2016 shows this week. The band announced a short run in February that will likely be added to in the future.

December 30 Pittsburgh, PA—Mr. Smalls
December 31 Pittsburgh, PA—Stage AE
January 6-11 Miami, FL—Jam Cruise 14
January 29 Philadelphia, PA—Electric Factory
January 30 Syracuse, NY—F Shed at the Market
January 31 New Haven, CT—Toad’s Place
February 2 Portland, ME—State Theatre
February 3 South Burlington, VT—Higher Ground
February 4 Providence, RI—Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel
February 5 Boston, MA—House of Blues
February 6 New York, NY—Terminal 5
March 4-6 Okeechobee, FL—Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival

Jeff Austin Band announces dates
The Jeff Austin Band announced two weeks of February dates, marking their first announced 2016 shows.

February 12 Denver, CO—Bluebird Theater
February 13 Denver, CO—Bluebird Theater
February 14 Telluride, CO—Club Red at Telluride Conference Center
February 16 Durango, CO—Animas City Theatre
February 17 Monroe, UT—Mystic Hot Springs
February 19 San Francisco, CA—Great American Music Hall
February 20 Tahoe City, CA—Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que
February 21 Nevada City, CA—Chief Crazy Horse Saloon and Grill
February 23 Arcata, CA—Humboldt Brews
February 24 Eugene, OR—W.O.W. Hall
February 25 Portland, OR—Wonder Ballroom
February 26 Seattle, WA—Neumos
February 27 Moscow, ID—John’s Alley

Strings & Sol
December 10-14
Puerto Morales, Mexico
Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, Sam Bush Band, Fruition

Tropical Throe.Down
January 10-14
Jewel Paradise Cove Resort
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
moe. will host the event and will be joined by Medeski, Martin, & Wood and Little Feet

Island Exodus
January 15-19
Jewel Paradise Cove Resort
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Gov’t Mule will host the event

Phish in Riviera Maya
January 15-17
Barcelo Maya Resort
Riviera Maya, Mexico

Jam in the Sand
January 19-23
Jewel Paradise Cove Resort
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra will play three shows and an acoustic set. Also performing will be Steve Kimock’s Jerry Garcia tribute with Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane, Reed Mathis, and Dan Lebowitz. The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band will also be there.

Winter Wonder Grass Colorado
February 19-21
Nottingham Park
Avon Colorado
Greensky Bluegrass (2 nights), The Wood Brothers, Nahko & Medicine for the People, The Travelin’ McCourys, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds

March 3-5
The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
The Disco Biscuits, ALO, The Main Squeeze, The Heavy Pets Tribute to the 80’s, Turkuaz, Pink Talking Fish, American Babies, Aqueous, Broccoli Samurai

Winter Wonder Grass California
April 1-3
Squaw Valley, CA
Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang, Elephant Revival, The Travelin’ McCourys

Wanee Festival
April 14-16
The Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park
Live Oak, FL

Dark Star Jubilee
May 27-29
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH

June 9-12
Manchester, TN

Electric Forest
June 23-26
Double JJ Ranch & Resort
Rothbury, MI

Northwest String Summit
July 14-17
Horning’s Hideout
North Plains, OR

July 27-31
Floyd, VA
Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, Greensky Bluegrass, Keller Williams & More Than A Little, Leftover Salmon, Shakey Graves, Railroad Earth, The Wood Brothers, Elephant Revival, Anders Osborne, Pimps of Joytime

Catskill Chill
September 30-October 2
Charles Wood Park
Lake George, NY

Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!