Pitchfork & Lost Needles

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Pitchfork & Lost Needles includes Clutch's debut 7" in its four-song entirety and augments that with unreleased tracks and demo versions. As this set proves, the veteran quartet began as a band crouched between the Melvins, a viscous form of hardcore (think a slower, more economic Sick of It All), and the literate but still loud post-punk of Jawbox. "Wicker" is in blistering half-time, its layers of needling guitars and Neil Fallon's yawping proclamations ("Pacemaker! LIFE TAKER!") skinned to their barest, most powerful essence. "Arcadia" is three minutes of stocky thud, the sort of thing flannel-shirted bullies would blast from crappy boom boxes in the early '90s. The unreleased tracks are equally strong, from the low-slung grind of the perfectly named "Nero's Fiddle" to the relatively upbeat "Passive Restraints," a song tailor-made for pissing off parents or turfing lawns. "What Would a Wookie Do?" and "Bottoms Up, Socrates" date from the Robot Hive: Exodus sessions. As such they're more nuanced than Clutch's early work, but not by much. Fallon's vocals and lyrics take a higher position in the mix and an additional organ adds depth. But "Socrates" still finds a way to turn its breezy introduction into a righteous chorus anthem. The demos of "Bacchanal" and "Milk of Human Kindness" -- both songs dating from Transnational Speedway League -- aren't too different from their final versions besides being a bit more satisfyingly raw. Pitchfork & Lost Needles is a great pickup for both Clutch diehards and the uninitiated, since the populations of both groups are so large. Everyone can revel in it, then share the surgical thread when it's time for sewing ears back on.

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