One advantage of running your own label is that you don’t have anyone telling you what NOT to put on the album. Maybe that explains why Clutch’s 12th studio record ended up as a 15 track, 57-minute monstrosity. Not that there are any songs that really don’t belong on here… they just maybe could’ve trimmed the fat.
Book of Bad Decisions kicks off with “Gimme the Keys,” a song about a bad gig in Kansas back in the early 90’s. This one’s got a good driving backbeat, with a vocal-driven, stop-start riff. It’s more or less what we’d expect from Neil Fallon and company. “Spirit of ‘76” begins with a great, bluesy groove, with a bit of a slower tempo and lighter chorus. The title track with get yer head nodding with its fuzzy riffage, while “How to Shake Hands” shows Fallon at his preachy best—a presidential campaign speech that includes putting Jimi Hendrix on the 20-dollar bill and Bill Hicks on the five-note.
“Weird Times” is a pretty solid mid-tempo throwback to their self-titled album, while “A Good Fire” is catchy in its bouncy beat and simple, sing-along chorus. “H.B. is in Control” rides a classic Clutch groove and storytelling lyric before reminding us that “Hieronymus Bosch is in control.”
There are also a few odd detours, as you might imagine on an album this long. “In Walks Barbarella” features a Tower of Power style horn section amidst a refrain of “Weaponized Funk,” while “Emily Dickinson” is a slow, mellow, five-minute number that borders on Americana and namedrops a 19th-century poet in its chorus. And if you can figure out what “Ghoul Wrangler” is about, be sure to let me know.
But hey, at the end of the day, it still sounds like Clutch. And if you like Clutch, you’ll want to clear space on your record shelf for Album Number 12.