What Would Clutch Do?

Yippee! It’s time for one of those lovely, good old fashioned first world problems blog posts where I ask myself about things I can perfectly easily afford to buy. I mean, it’s hardly like the world is going to hell in a handcart again, is it? Oooh, the smell of the far right fills the air once more, and fear runs down the streets like blood. Or is it the other way around? Who knows; let’s talk album purchases.

So, I am a 38 year old metal fan. I like lots of different kinds of heavy music from classic rock to black metal, and a lot of things in between. I am always on the lookout for something new to excite my ears, and that can just as likely include a band which has been around since I was in primary school.

If I ‘discover’ a band it is usually through hearing one of their new songs through a Metal Hammer compilation CD, a BangerTV review, or a YouTube recommendation. Either way, I find my way in not through the material that they released at the very start of their career, but through the material they released last week, this week or in the weeks to come. I understand that all of that is perfectly logical to those who are inclined to accept logic in to their lives, but some people cannot do so.

And lo it came to pass, in the year of our infernal lord two thousand and fifteen, I was introduced to Maryland’s finest crooners, Clutch. I had already been familiar with one of their bigger hits – 2007’s monumentally gibbering Electric Worry – but had put them out of my mind as a one-song band, and moved on to different things. Sometimes I am a stupid, stupid man, and I should be punished.

Their album Psychic Warfare came like a kick in the teeth for me. It was brilliant in ways that I could not wrap my head around: it was heavy and yet it was clean; it was groovy and yet it was metal; it had swagger and yet it was deep and rich and powerful. It got me, and it got me instantly.

Their new album, Book of Bad Decisions, was an equally instant joy. The lyrics were funny and poignant in equal measure, and it possessed a brooding southern charm. It managed to mix a sound positivity with a vein of gallows humour, all wrapped up in music I could listen to all the day long.

And that leads to a problem: I cannot really listen to two albums all day long; I need a few more than that. Clutch have twelve studio albums to their name, and I have no idea where to start with them.

As I have stated in the past, I have Amazon Prime membership, and that is good. Quite a number of Clutch’s albums – I can see seven on my other screen – are available to listen to for free on Prime. That’s good, except for the fact that I don’t routinely listen to music through the Amazon Music App.

I have a separate music player app which works better. Listening to some albums through Amazon Music and others through the app I am used to causes my music collection to splinter. It also causes me to forget about the bands and the albums I have in the lesser used app. This is less than perfect.

The half-way house, half-arsed “solution” I have found to this is to essentially ignore albums on Prime, except as a taster, and buy the albums I want to incorporate in to my wider music collection.

The problem with listening to albums for free is that either the connection needs to be active or it feels like more of a commitment downloading it. I need it to be a casual trying before I buy option. It also leaves an album sitting in my account. If I choose to buy the same album at a later date – I am currently playing Earth Rocker, Clutch’s tenth – it poses lots of problems replacing the Prime album.

On the other hand is the deeper philosophical question I wrestle with: do I start from their first album or do I take a more scattergun approach? Is a band’s discography more like the MCU or the James Bond universe? With the MCU, if I am about to walk in to Endgame I will want to have watched every film, from Iron Man in 2007, right up to Captain Marvel a few weeks ago. I know that that level of commitment will help me get the most of the experience. Is that necessary with a band?

The converse is the Bond universe. I don’t need to have sat through every 007 adventure from Dr. No to Spectre to enjoy Bond 25. I know that because I have watched all of those films, and I know that my enjoyment of Bond 25 will rest entirely on how good the film is, and how well the story is set up and executed. Only a Clutch fan can similarly guide me on the journey in to their back catalogue.

Their first album is the impossibly titled Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes and Undeniable Truths. Is listening to that going to have any bearing on my enjoyment of Blast Tyrant or The Elephant Riders? I am not in a position to know, but I do want to find out, and soon.

One of my most memorable musical journeys was immersing myself in the complete collected works of Halifax metal band Paradise Lost. It gave me a deep and rich understanding of their business. I think I still hold that experience in some kind of romantic misty-eyed position, and seem to want to do so with every band that I get an interest in. I am unsure as to whether it is necessary at all. I have tried it recently with the albums of Samael, The Ocean and Dimmu Borgir, to rather mixed results.

My instinct at present is to try and make a concerted effort to listen to the albums of theirs which I have available to me through my Prime membership, and see which albums make me want to shell out my hard-earned and go through the process of expunging them from my phone before I take the plunge on the ones which grab me most. That’s four albums on my phone at this moment in time.

I still love the fact that I am always being confronted by new music to listen to, and I never want to come off as someone who listens to a band only to appear like someone who listens to a band. I want to know their complete history, and all that they are capable of. Clutch have joined that club.