Superior production and sound choices in the arrangements department make Clutch a must-have in Peter Hammill's discography. Fans of the man's folksier side are especially in for a treat. Hammill deliberately wrote and performed these nine songs on acoustic guitar. The only other instruments are Stuart Gordon's violin and David Jackson's saxophones, appearing on five and three songs respectively -- no programmed drums or questionable keyboard presets, two features that usually weaken the impact of the man's extremely potent songwriting. And what about the songwriting? Clutch offers a soft-spoken set of songs hinting at both Fool's Mate ("The Birds," "Solitude") and Fireships. The stronger ones are "We Are Written" (for its great melody), "This Is the Fall" (for its look back at religion, almost a sequel to "The Lie"), and "Driven" (for everything about it). The latter song immediately became a regular fixture in Hammill's live performances, but "We Are Written" deserved the same fate, and so did "Just a Child," if only for Gordon's crunching electric guitar-like violin part. "Once You Called Me" and "Skinny" -- respectively about fatherhood and anorexia -- are less convincing lyrically and musically. These are not all ballads, mind you, and few of these tracks could be called folk songs. For instance, the closing eight-minute piece, "Bareknuckle Trade," is pure Hammillian delirium, with multi-tracked vocals haunting an insisting riff that brings to mind such milestones as "The Comet, the Course, the Tail," "Patient," and "Happy Hour." And for once, upon listening to Clutch, you get the feeling that you don't have to wait to hear these songs live to witness their full potential. Highly recommended as one of the man's best late-career studio efforts.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture