“Oh lord fuck,” I think as I listen to the first 15 seconds of this track I can’t possibly imagine anyone actually having played out loud… for other people… in public. “It’s erudite-posturing funk metal or some shit, isn’t it? Oh lord, oh lord, oh fuck — how long is thi — SIX MINUTES AND THIRTY FOUR SECONDS. Faaaaaaaaaack.”
Preach on mediocre white dude! Preach on!
So where do I even begin with this? “Just stop playing music” seems an unnecessarily cruel note, and yet I keep circling back to it. Or I would if not for the fact that people seem to enjoy this, and so what the hell is it to me if they do or don’t or anything in between? It all subjective maaaaaaaaaaaaan. But this song right here? This fucking sucks.
I will grant, however, that what ended up in my Shazam app was actually a live version — which somebody elected to play out loud… for other people… in public — and that the studio version you hear above is actually a hell of a lot better. Not good, mind you. But better.
The guitars in the studio version have some Black Sabbath to them. A lot of the funk bounce is stripped away compared to the live one. And the vocals early in the track are less a cheesy faux-theatrical omniscient chest-thumping space-asshole warble and more a cheesy Maryland-accented faux-growl that eventually builds to a chorus of multiple shouting voices that — holy shit! — actually kinda work really well.
Ugh, but the verses. Still the verses. I know it was the 90s, but how did nobody stop this??? I don’t need a band to take itself super seriously or anything, but… yeesh. Among far too many others, Dave Mustaine can do a thing vaguely like it in the verses of Symphony of Destruction, for example, because that song is actually going somewhere (note: somewhere awesome), and his band is technically proficient and capable of handling counter-melodies and key changes and a tempo above stoned out of my fucken gourd.
These guys asked a sentient hemp knapsack with weed crumbs in it to slap a little bit of half-assed organ in there during the verses so we have something to listen to instead of straight ride cymbal and embarrassing lyrics. But despite the white-guy-in-dreads elements Clutch seem rather angry about something here, too.
Fucking weirder still: against my better judgment I went ahead and listened to a few of the other tracks on this record (the studio one, that is) and — holy shit again! — I actually completely didn’t hate them. Er… some of them.
The vocals worked in spots, Clutch are far better musicians than Escape From the Prison Planet alone leads on, and, apart from a bit where they did a nursery rhyme thing like Korn’s cringeworthy Shoots And Ladders, the lyrics didn’t make me almost puke in my mouth. Or at least I didn’t notice them for their badness.
Seriously, give Big News a try — it’s alright. And frankly, the fact that the live version of Escape… that I heard was recorded at D.C.’s 9:30 Club (though obviously the new one and not the iconic original) probably should have tipped me off that these guys are not entirely preening sci-fi stoner funk-metal trash.
Way to go, Clutch! You almost won me over! … A little bit… sort of.
And way to go for the fact that the studio version of this song apparently appeared on the soundtrack to John Carpenter’s Escape From L.A., which means two things: One, that it is then at least tangentially related to the excellent documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, and for no reason other than the fact that it sure as fuck beats continuing to talk about this song, I can encourage everyone to go watch that. Aaaand two, surf’s up!!!!! Hang on Snake, AWOOOOO!!!
Clutch – Live at the 9:30
YouTube | iTunes | Spotify