Clutch - Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes, and Undeniable Truths

Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes, and Undeniable Truths

"Jesse James couldn't even handle it, started looking at me like I was Sanskrit"

Before becoming the fun loving blues metal/hard rock poets that Clutch has made themselves, they were a lot sludgier and aggressive, but the band's lengthy titled debut of Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes, and Undeniable Truths is still 100% Clutch.

This is some of the most intense and exuberant sludgy sounding metal I've ever heard, with songs like A Shogun Named Marcus and Rats screaming with aggression, speed, and personality. Binge and Purge takes a more doom quality, before having an explosive climax with lines of "Come on motherfucker, come on motherfucker, let's throw down" which may be the most angry the band's ever been. (Though the delivery of "RRRAAAAATTTS" in the aforementioned Rats is pretty balls-out crushing too) Some songs take a more post-hardcore sounding sludge sound, like Earthworm and Heirloom 13, these sound like nothing else the band's done, but fit in well and it's cool hearing Clutch master such a different style.

Clutch are already masters of personality and songwriting, and Neil Fallon already a lyrical wordsmith. He's said in interviews that he writes lyrics for a song and a melody, rather for them to really have to mean anything beyond being a part of the song. Underworld does similar in the techno world, and I love both bands doing it. It brings some of the best and most creative lyrics and songwriting out there. A rampaging opener like A Shogun Named Marcus is made both relentlessly aggressive with the music and a lot of fun with an infectious chorus. The grungy groove of Walking in the Great Shining Path of Monster Trucks is made even better with fantastic lines like "Well I crashed a Cadillac through the Gates Of Hell and returned with a Fistful Of Dollars" and "Jesse James couldn't even handle it, started looking at me like I was Sanskrit". They're a huge inspiration to me as a lyricist.

Despite being different musically and overall more intense, Clutch's debut is still completely a Clutch album. It would just take a bit of a switch in sound to arrive to where they are now, because the band's personality and pure songwriting talent is all here.

Beastie Boys - Hello Nasty

Beastie Boys
Hello Nasty

"One two one two, this is just a test"

Hello Nasty is like no other hip hop album I've heard, it's like an exploration in various sounds and samples but always with the Beastie Boys' fun loving attitude. Its got such a busy sound with everything going on, but it's never overwhelming even with the 22 songs on the album.

Remote Control, Just a Test, Intergalactic, and Putting Shame in Your Game are probably my favorites, Just a Test especially being one of the B-boy's most underrated songs. They've got such great flow, and their rap bravado is contrasted by fantastic moody and ominous samples, and it gives it such a cool sound. The electro-rap of Intergalactic rightfully was the album's biggest hit, and it's impossible to not love the delivery of "let the beat...mmmDRRROP".

One of the strangest parts of the album are the neo-psychedelic songs that are completely devoid of hip hop, though there's a psychedelic element throughout the album. These songs include Song for the Man, Song for Junior, and I Don't Know, and they all fit in and sound great.

Hello Nasty is a bit of a grower, but once it hit, it hit. One of the best of both the B-boy's and hip hop as a whole.


Mount Shasta - Who's the Hottie?

Mount Shasta
Who's the Hottie?

Noise Rock will always be noisy, hence the name, but the levels of noise vary from band to band. Mount Shasta has much of the noise in the vocals, to the point of them being indecipherable yelling with no melody or anything whatsoever. It's best described as what Tad Doyle overdosing on crack would probably sound like. Once you get used to it, they just become part of the sound.

Those riffs though, that's where this album shines like no other. The album is an instant hook, with opener Gimp's riff catching my ear on such a primal level that I knew this was gonna be good. The riffs are of a classic grunge fashion, switching between bluesy metal riffs that Blue Cheer would be proud of and raw garage rock pounding that would make The Stooges take notice. Sometimes it'll go in a more atmospheric drawl in parts of a song to contrast with the bluesy aggression of the rest of the song, which works wonders in Near Famous Jackass and Raw Meat Lincoln Style.

Originally intrigued by the cover art that looks like some obscure 60's cartoon, I found a great riff album. Good stuff.


Nazareth - No Mean City

No Mean City

"Call off your dogs for I am no fox"

While Hair of the Dog is probably Nazareth's definitive album, No Mean City is the apex of the Scottish heavy metal band's sound before switching to a more pop rock style in the 80's. No Mean City, while including a few softer rock songs as the band always has, is perhaps the band at their most vicious.

This is heard best in the closing title track, with its menacing atmosphere. McCafferty is at his most aggressive, especially with the caustic delivery of such lines as the aforementioned that opens up this review. That coupled with the proto-black metal rapid atmospheric guitar riffing, makes for an ominous finale. Claim to Fame as well, this time a heavy stomp, is a great surge of anger through song.

Songs like Just to Get Into It and Simple Solution (The latter's probably my favorite on the album) makes me wonder why they dropped the metal come the 80's. Simple Solution especially, sounds like it could've come straight from an 80's metal album. Its infectiously catchy chorus brings it right up there with Saxon and Judas Priest classics as one of metal's best melodies.

Like other late 70's heavy metal albums, No Mean City has a perfect balance between the bluesier 70's with the sound of the beginning of the next decade. One of the band's best, and an end of an era, for the band wouldn't bring metal back into their repertoire until much later.


Powerman 5000 - Mega!! Kung Fu Radio

Powerman 5000
Mega!! Kung Fu Radio

"If they ask ya' what, tell'em file under action"

Before Powerman 5000 went in an industrial metal direction, they crafted a unique sound like no other and defined the variety of nu metal at its core. They blended hip hop, their own stoner-sounding rapping, knockout metal grooves, funky bass, 70's metal style soloing, varied percussion, and more in a seamless mix. Incredibly fun too, perfectly both creative and entertaining. It's like Clutch making a nu metal album.

Mega!! Kung Fu Radio is booming with personality, infectious hooks, heavy grooves, high energy, and Spider One's deadpan delivery of abstract lyricism. What separates Powerman from other rap metal bands is how perfectly they play in both genres. They aren't just rapping over metal riffing, they're blending chunky metal grooves with funky hip hop rhythms seamlessly like they were meant for each other. It's a perfect way to get a metal fan into hip hop, or vice-versa.

I love this whole album, so it's hard to really highlight any particular song, describing the sound as a whole is a lot easier. However, Organizized, 20 Miles to Texas 25 to Hell, Standing 8, and hidden track File Under Action are some particular favorites if I had to choose. File Under Action is the purest hip hop track on the album, with a perfect use of a droning atmosphere and effective placement of guitar riffing and feedback that's made ultra-heavy whenever it appears. Spider One carries great flow throughout the album, but this is among his best performances.

The 90's were an incredibly creative time for music, and Powerman 5000 shows some of the best part of that for both the world of metal and hip hop.



Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger


"I'm gonna break my rusty cage and run."

People will often debate between Dirt and Nevermind as the definitive grunge album, but in my book it'll always be Badmotorfinger. Maybe part of that comes from that fact that I've practically been hearing this album my whole life, but it also defines grunge like no other album. Heavy, dirty, sludgy, it's a massive behemoth of an album, yet also off the cuff and frantic when it needs to be.

Song titles like Slaves & Bulldozers, Searching With My Good Eye Closed, and Room a Thousand Years Wide are not only great titles, but they just bring to mind images of some pummeling force before it's heard in the music. Drawing Flies is as grungy as you can get, bringing the definition of dirty and grimy to its literal form.

It's a perfect showcase of a pure band displaying their talents, no member really outshining (pun not intended) the other. Chris Cornell gives a fiery vocal performance, from the red-faced screaming of Slaves & Bulldozers to the venom spitting of Drawing Flies, he's the closest anyone's gotten to Rob Halford levels of intensity. Kim Thayil's signature guitar style permeates the album, with little being as iconic as Rusty Cage's opening riff (especially for anyone who's also played Road Rash). Ben Shepherd's bass licks can be deceivingly insane, particularly on the jagged and frantic Jesus Christ Pose, or helping a lumbering rhythm section (Slaves & Bulldozers again). Last but not least, Matt Cameron's drumming is simply a pounding force that cements each song into your head.

I could go on and on about how fantastic this album is, but I don't want to ramble. It's a genre-defining album, and one of the best metal albums of all time.


Cypress Hill - Cypress Hill

Cypress Hill
Cypress Hill

While Cypress Hill's debut lacks the ominous atmospheres that they would become known for, the band still already had a unique sound of their own. It's funky, not unlike a lot of hip hop at the time, but DJ Muggs is a master sampler which creates a really busy sound. B-Real and Sen Dog both have really unique voices, that I haven't quite heard elsewhere. B-Real's nasally and cocky delivery is filled to the brim with personality, and he can make gangsta lyricism fun as all hell. Sen Dog contrasts with an incredibly low and strained style, and the two play off of one another really well.

How I Could Just Kill a Man is a classic for a reason, but that's just the beginning of how many bops are on here. Light Another, The Phuncky Feel One, and The Funky Cypress Hill Shit are so damn funky that they immediately get your body movin'. Along with the aforementioned How I Could, Hand on the Pump and Hole in the Head are other songs that sound like a more upbeat version of followup Black Sunday.

While not quite the perfection of Black Sunday, Cypress Hill's s/t is a very close second and an essential hip hop classic.