Margin Walkers 

The Clutters lash out while Last Train Home hold back

Discussing his work on the new Clutters album Don’t Believe a Word, indie producer (and Ben Folds’ bassist) Jared Reynolds recently confessed that a few friends had cautioned him not to take the production job for this record. They were convinced there was no way The Clutters could make something as memorable as their remarkable debut T&C. They were right.

Discussing his work on the new Clutters album Don’t Believe a Word, indie producer (and Ben Folds’ bassist) Jared Reynolds recently confessed that a few friends had cautioned him not to take the production job for this record. They were convinced there was no way The Clutters could make something as memorable as their remarkable debut T&C. They were right.

Though it never amassed the international acclaim or record sales of Kings of Leon’s Aha Shake Heartbreak or Bare Jr.’s Boo-Tay, 2005’s T&C was still one of the best rock records to come out of this town in the last 10 years. Following it up would be a daunting task no matter who was behind the board. But Reynolds and the band give it a solid shot on Don’t Believe a Word, expanding the band’s hook-heavy garage rock to include moments that could confidently be called jamming.

“On Repeat” is straight-up Doolittle-era Pixies, while guitarist and vocalist Doug Lehmann’s screaming at the end of “Fire” is obviously a vocal homage—or sarcastic rip—of Jim Morrison. There are other instances of overt classic-rock influences to be found here, but the band still sticks primarily to their mainstay of jagged riffs, retro keys and screaming choruses. This time around though, without the hooks that dominated T&C, shout-along songs like “Rockaway” and “Radio” aren’t so much catchy as simply repetitive.

“Let It Roll” is a nice companion piece to T&C’s “Rock and Roll,” featuring a bludgeoning backbeat and Lehmann furiously screaming the title like a general urging his troops into what he knows is a hopeless battle. It’s shot through with an inspired us-vs.-them feeling, a theme shared by many of the songs on the album, from opener “9999 (Ways to Hate Us)” to closer “Surrender.” The lyrics are stuffed with “we”s, “they”s and tales of the vast expanse between the two. Although Lehmann says he was simply trying to avoid using “I” in every song, it still feels like the dominating arc of the album is about a band alternately lashing out against a world that doesn’t understand it and hunkering down for the impending backlash.

This week, Americana radio favorites Last Train Home issue Last Good Kiss, their first release since relocating from Washington, D.C., to East Nashville a few years back. Here, LTH sidestep the sound of rowdy new traditionalists like The Avett Brothers in favor of ’80s country rock revivalists like Lone Justice and later-era X.

Though the album is undoubtedly well executed—and certainly more compelling than half of the rote, run-of-the-mill roots-rock clogging up the clubs and littering the pages of No Depression—there’s still a formulaic feel to much of One Last Kiss. Bandleader and singer Eric Brace has a cool, detached vocal quality that, while commanding, never really rips into emotionally perilous territory. There’s no burning sense of purpose or overwhelming desire expressed in these songs, or at least not enough of it to save this album from being another descendant of Neil Young and John Doe that can’t quite replicate the inspiring passion of the originators.

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