Clutch - La Curandera (Cover Artwork)


La Curandera (2015)

Weathermaker music

When Breast Cancer Awareness Month rolls around each October, most bands involved in the campaign do their part by releasing their most recent record on special edition pink vinyl. Clutch, however, decided that ahead of the release of Psychic Warfare, their 11th studio album, they would compile some of their best, female-focused songs into a sort of b-sides and rarities concept album. The result, pressed in pink and clad with a badass cover by comics artist extraordinaire Becky Cloonan, is its own beast entirely.

The primary concept of femininity or, rather, female power on La Curandera is enforced from the very start with supporting themes of mystery and grindhouse-inspired badassery. Variations occur not so much in theme—the protagonist of each song is mysterious and, with one or two exceptions, seductive—but setting and tonality. "La Curandera," the title track, deviates from the norm by presenting a protagonist just discovering her power; and Cyborg Bette envisions a central character perhaps a bit more nefarious than any other on the record (or, it could be interpreted that the titular Bette only seems nefarious by way of her fierce independence).

Questions like this arise as a result of the fact that, though all 8 songs on the album are about women, none of them are delivered from the point of view of a woman. Men reacting, men in awe, men jilted--- the message is dichotomous. On the surface, the male viewpoint of women might seem shortsighted, even sexist, but listen closely and the overall story is that all the men in these songs can do is react to this collection of eight extraordinary, fictive women. It’s an idea turned on its head—a world dominated by dynamic women wherein all the men can do is observe and pontificate.

This hidden theme is made all the more intriguing by the aural asynchronicity of the album. Given that this is a collection of songs from the extensive and diverse Clutch, back-catalogue, there is a sonic disconnect from song to song. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the very end of La Curandera; the second-to-last Oh, Isabella, a raw, powerful lament… easily the best song on the record, is followed by a disastrous, messy live rendition of the strangely paced The Dragonfly. Overall, the whole package is kind of loose. Most of the songs are good-to-great, and the very idea of the album is cool, but it lacks connective tissue.