It’s been three years since Clutch have released new music, but that doesn’t mean the Maryland foursome haven’t been hard at work. Pieces of new songs started to come together as the band was on the road behind 2015’s Psychic Warfare, and, three years later, their new album, Book of Bad Decisions, clocks in at 15 songs. While that might suggest a breakdown in the quality-control department, guitarist Tim Sult says the band took pains to make sure none of it was filler.
“We spend time on each song, we don’t just throw it out there and hope for the best,” he says. “We work on it as much as we can and come to a unanimous decision on what we think the best version of the song is.”
That approach can lead to some unconventional destinations. Take “In Walks Barbarella,” a jittery piece of funk that sounds like Black Sabbath jamming with the Motown house band, horn section and all. To the casual Clutch listener, it’s a new direction, but Sult believes anyone who’s paid attention to the group’s catalog — and their more experimental stuff in side project the Bakerton Group — wouldn’t be surprised at all.
“I’ve never really felt like that song was that different. You definitely have the funky verse part, but we’ve always been influenced by funk and Motown and soul music — but maybe some people are just hearing it a bit differently from we are because it has horns on it.”
To get his sounds on the new record, Sult stuck with what he knew, switching between a newer Gibson SG and another model from the Sixties. But when it came to amps, he found himself messing around with more models than on any previous album, including an old PA head from the Fifties and a Fifties Bassman.
“Both Vance Powell, the producer, and his engineer Mike Fahey have an amazing collection of amps that I got to get into,” Sult says.
It was Powell who suggested recording the album in Nashville, and the city’s honky-tonk vibe is all over the record. While Clutch have surely been the soundtrack to the sacrifice of thousands of joints to the ganja gods, Book of Bad Decisions and its Music City sounds make the case they’ve been tied to the wrong inebriant. So would Clutch be cool with being reclassified as “whiskey rock”?
“I’m totally fine with it!,” Sult says. “But I can’t drink whiskey. There will be no rock if I’m drinking whiskey, that’s for sure.”