Full Fathom Five: Video Field Recordings 2007/2008
posted on 9/2008 By:
Like Clutch themselves, Full Fathom Five has no frills. It's packaged in a simple digipack case, with space-rock artwork that just as easily could've adorned a Hawkwind record in 1971. There are no bonus features, nothing but seven dudes playing twenty songs recorded at five different shows in four cities (Sayreville, NJ; Pittsburgh; Sydney; and Boulder, CO, to be exact). With Clutch, what you see is what you get, and what you get here is a live recording by one of the best rock'n'roll bands currently active.
Their stage show is equally simplistic--guitarist Tim Sult and bassist Dan Maines standing mostly still, cranking out pentatonic riffs atop Jean-Paul Gaster's jammy beats while Neil Fallon wanders the front of the stage in a t-shirt and jeans, bellowing his surreal stream-of-consciousness lines in that killer rumbling voice of his. (For my money, Fallon is among the best lyricists in rock.) The band is augmented by second guitarist Bryan Hinkley, organist Mick Schauer and harmonica player Eric Oblander.
The recording quality is good if not overwhelming, with enough camera changes and split-screen cuts to keep things moving visually, although honestly Clutch's live show is so bare-bones that where Full Fathom functions best is as a live record that just happens to have video attached. Having seen Clutch a few times (and going again in October, if all goes well), I can say from experience that they excel in the live environment, and it's not that their talent doesn't translate through video, but rather that video inherently limits the power of Clutch (or most any great band). Performing without lasers and pyro and all the trappings of arena rock flash, a band like Clutch gets by solely on the sheer power of their sound and the quality of their material. It’s a given to me that no video will ever truly capture the connection between a great band and a willing audience, and only in that universal-to-concert-video regard does Full Fathom fall short. Put differently: as a document of a great band on top of their game, this one succeeds wholeheartedly, with or without anything more outrageous or unusual than seven ugly dudes rocking out on some heavy blues riffs, but in no way is it a substitute for seeing the real deal in person.
The set runs the gamut from Clutch classics like "Texan Book Of The Dead" and "Big News" (1 & 2) to "The Mob Goes Wild" and "Electric Worry," and it’s understandably heavy on Beale Street material, since the band was touring behind that record at the time this was filmed. (For anyone counting, there are no songs from Transnational Speedway or Pure Rock Fury, five each from the self-titled and from Elephant Riders, two each from Blast Tyrant and Robot Hive, and those six from Beale Street.) Some songs come off better than others, of course, but overall, the band’s constant touring regimen has left them with the perfect blend of tight musicianship and loose grooves. (Sadly, "The Mob Goes Wild," one of my favorite Clutch tunes, doesn’t pack nearly as much of a wallop here as it does on Blast Tyrant, so that’s a big bummer for me.)
I would’ve loved some interview footage, at least—something to give this a little more added value, but I’ll take what I can get. (I can imagine with the band having jumped labels multiple times that licensing their promo videos for inclusion would’ve been complicated.) Even with the lack of surprises or fancypants bonus material, I recommend this DVD (and this band) to any and all fans of great rock music. And I highly recommend that, given the chance, you check out Clutch when they inevitably come to a venue near you.
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