Dark Arts Versus Crud Pop
Our two Andrews use Grinderman and Clutch to destroy Hilary Duff
Any efforts to describe the sneering, freeform bluntness of lead single "No Pussy Blues" would fall woefully short of matching Cave's own assessment of the track in a recent Grinderman press release. "It is the child standing goggle-eyed at the cake shop window," he explained, "as the shop-owner, in his plastic sleeves, barricades the door and turns the sign to CLOSED. It is the howl in the dark of the Everyman. "
Or it's a song about blue balls, but you get the idea. Cave is at his best when he's frustrated--whether it's over women ("I Don't Need You To Set Me Free"), the music biz ("Get It On"), or women again ("Go Tell the Women"). We done our thing, we have evolved , he claims on the latter track. We're up on our hind legs, the problem's solved . If Cave's problem was finding the right balance between his young punk and old poet personas, Grinderman certainly sounds like the solution.
Sure, you could criticize Duff for being nothing more than a vapid, talentless cog in the fascist Disney merchandising machine, but how about a little objectivity? Dignity is Duff's fourth album, and at the age of 19, she has made considerable strides as a performer and co-lyricist. Choosing to forego the automatic, undeserved street cred of a Timbaland collaboration, Hilary has instead taken on the considerable challenge of trying to sound exactly like a half-asleep Gwen Stefani--often succeeding with pinpoint accuracy.
"With Love" is a killer club-pop anthem, sort of like a "Wouldn't It Be Nice" for today's fun-loving, anorexic adolescents. And the Duffster brings it even stronger on "Never Stop" and "Happy," channeling Kajagoogoo as she totally burns her ex-BF with the line I'm happy and I know that makes you sad .
More awesomer still, Hilary somehow maintains her incomparable cuteness as she chides her pantiless, Hollywood rivals on the CD's title track, asking, Where's your dignity? You see, Duff has the right to judge, because even though her music is essentially indistinguishable from that of your Lohans and Hiltons, she's always been a classier act.
This may be because Clutch never really attempts to adapt to the world of music around them, instead maintaining an eccentric sound with erratic song structures that don't always specifically include choruses, lyrics that require a college education to understand, and complicated instrumentation whose slightly dirty mix brings listeners back to blues bar roots.
Clutch's latest album continues the band's outstanding track record. "You Can't Stop Progress" lurches the album off to an aggressive start and almost serves as an ars poetica for the band's direction over the years. Throughout the album, the blues influence shows through stronger than in its prior efforts, but any of its songs are subject to sudden change. These changes are never jarring, however, due to the well-written rhythm section and fluid and dynamic guitar riffs.
Neil Fallon's voice is at its most melodic here, but he never loses the intricacy of rhythm that characterizes his prior writing. Furthermore, with titles such as "The Rapture of Ridley Walker," "When Vegans Attack," and "Mr. Shiny Cadillackness," a glance will tell you that although Clutch's latest album might not be for everyone, it probably should be.