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Clutch | Robot Hive Exodus | review | rock | Lollipop
Robot Hive/Exodus (DRT)
by Brian Varney
Although I made it a point to hear every Clutch album, the band's music never really sunk its hooks in until the sixth full-length, 2004's Blast Tyrant. That album was the first time the band's riff-based hard rock sound, sprawling tastes, and impressive musicianship congealed into recognizably excellent song form (think equal parts Led Zeppelin, Red Album-era Grand Funk, and Funkadelic's first three LPs).
In true Clutch fashion, the follow-up, Robot Hive/Exodus, is a bit of a left turn. This is, after all, a band that's made a career of changing directions between albums. Granted, this album is closer to the hard rock juggernaut Blast Tyrant than, say, the spaced-out jam-rock of the self-titled album is to the hardcore-tinged debut, Transnational Speedway League, but there are nevertheless several key changes. The first is the full-time addition of keyboard player Mick Schauer, who plays lots of tasty Hammond that lends a decidedly more Southern rock feeling to Robot Hive/Exodus than has been present on any previous Clutch releases. While the album is far from Lynyrd Skynyrd clonery, you'll notice Southern rock flourishes fluidly integrated into the band's sound on "The Incomparable Mr. Flannery," "Land of Pleasant Living," and standout track "Mice and Gods," one of the best Clutch songs ever.
The one element that's consistent through the band's career is Neil Fallon's eccentric lyrics. Typically obscure and rather heavy on the worldplay, the words are sometimes nonsensical, often funny, and rarely dull, even if you don't care about such things. Having said that, I will comment that the lyrics aren't quite as inspired this go-round. Still good, just a small step down.
Which, come to think of it, is a pretty apt assessment of Robot Hive/Exodus as a whole. If this was my first Clutch album, I'd probably like it a lot more than I do. A small step down from towering heights only seems like a step down if you've seen the heights. I'd still recommend Blast Tyrant as the starting point for newcomers, but if you already have and love it, this is probably the best second in the Clutch catalog.