Everybody's heard the term "garage rock," and it's been used to refer to everything from the group of kids rocking out down the street to an entire genre of music. The metal group Clutch is a different type of garage band because you probably didn't hear it on your favorite rock station or see it on TV. You probably heard it while tossing back a few and head-banging in your buddy's garage.
"This is not a band that's had a bunch of radio hits. This is a band you heard because some friend was playing it at a party," said vocalist/guitarist Neil Fallon.
With a career that's lasted more than 20 years and has produced nine studio albums and a rabidly loyal fan base, Clutch can afford to take a few creative liberties with its sound. Actually, it's those choices for which the band is known.
The Maryland-based foursome — Fallon, Tim Sult (lead guitar), Dan Maines (bass) and Jean-Paul Gaster (drums) — has made a sonic habit of infusing its metal with elements of blues, psychedelic, jazz, punk and funk, earning critical praise and adoration from the hard rock/metal community.
"I think (our music) continues to evolve we go because we continue to listen to new music," Fallon said. "We bore very easily, and I see music as a journey, both musically and collectively."
However, in the case of Clutch's upcoming release, Earth Rocker, Clutch wasn't as influenced by new music as it was by the kind that is classic and timeless.
During two years of touring to promote its previous album, Strange Cousins From the West, the band found itself gravitating toward the furious sounds of thrash metal greats like Motorhead and the no-nonsense rock of Thin Lizzy. Fallon said those bands have influences from a bygone era — the first incarnations of rock 'n' roll (Chuck Berry, Little Richard) — that can be deciphered after sifting through the aggression and distortion.
According to Fallon, the blues-metal swagger for which the band is known is overtaken on Earth Rocker by something else that its fans still should appreciate.
"When we were writing this material, it struck us as very fast material," Fallon said. "This is faster, balls-to-the-wall rock 'n' roll from beginning to end. There's no pussy-footing around in this."
The band also isn't messing around prior to Earth Rocker's worldwide release in March and the second Clutch release on its independent label, Weathermaker Records. The band will hit the road for what's become an annual string of tour dates to cap off the year and will in Lexington on Friday. Fans will hear plenty of the band's new material, which might feature a slightly different sound but the same live intensity and Fallon's unique lyrics. With song titles across the band's catalog ranging from I Have the Body of John Wilkes Booth to 50,000 Unstoppable Watts, Fallon relishes the opportunity to go out on a lyrical limb and have Clutch's fans come along for the ride.
"Contemporary hard rock bands take themselves entirely too seriously," he said. "I see lyrics as a license to tell a short story. I don't draw from personal experience. I want to tell a tall tale. You can say whatever you want if you say it with enough confidence."
When it comes to Clutch's continued longevity and penchant to alter its formula ever-so-slightly from album to album, another of Fallon's song titles might be the most fitting: You Can't Stop Progress.
Blake Hannon is a Mount Sterling-based writer.