BITCHES’ BROOD – Boss Hog Resurface With A Snarling, Nightmare Vision Of Imminent Threat

I’ve spent quite a long time in the company of Brood X now and it’s my pleasure to tell you it never gets old.

Coolly referencing their lengthy hiatus – the album is named after a cicada that resurfaces every 17 years – it’s a record that respects Boss Hog’s history but packs a few surprises as well.

The glacial funk of 2000 predecessor Whiteout is largely missing, replaced by a heavier more aggressive punk sound, reminiscent of their early records.

Dripping with bitter satire and black humour, it’s shot through with images of imminent disaster and explosive drama.

Album opener Billy, cited by Cristina Fernandez and Jon Spencer as a personal favourite in their recent EP interview, is a high-tension tightrope walk of a song.

Cristina howls like an incantatory high priestess as she narrates the tale of a boy “on the edge”, on the “brink of destruction” about to burst into flames.

It’s quite a start, Jon’s shrieking licks counterbalanced by ascending piano and organ riffs courtesy of Mickey Finn.

Next up is Black Eyes, where Cristina seeks to block out the world in the company of a boy “who can make me forget”.

Jon’s guitar plays a call and response with Cristina’s vocal and there’s thunderous stick-work from Hollis Queens.

Spacey ‘60s keys herald the start of Ground Control – one of several songs given a new resonance on the light of the new man in the White House – as Cristina sings of only hearing bad news on the radio.

The nihilistic, apocalyptic feel of song is encapsulated in the final verse – “No civilisation/Woke up in a pile of ashes”.

The dark mood continues on Shh Shh Shh which, despite its tongue-in-cheek Scooby Doo-style video (below), paints a pretty bleak portrait.

“I’ve got a lot on my plate”, Cristina sings with increasing panic, as it becomes clear that something bad is going down.

Picture by Toon Aerts

Rooted by Jens Jurgensen’s bone-shaking bass, Signal is a driving blast of dirty blues-funk, while Rodeo Chica is a fun duet between the band’s married couple.

Themes of angst and dread are evoked again on Elevator, a keys-led call to action, which crashes into a brilliantly mad wig-out “I’m Going Down” chorus.

Single cut Formula X is emblematic Boss Hog, with crunching bass and drums, making room for another blade-sharp Jon Spencer riff.

Replete with more slash ’n’ burn declarative hollering from Cristina, it’s a mighty beast of a song with full on kitchen sink production to match.

The world-weary Sunday Routine is a very different animal; a cynical portrayal of the quiet desperation of suburban life.

In Boss Hog’s hands, the mundanity of the everyday becomes a stifling, cloying nightmarish vision, a banal prison of our own-making.

17 closes the album in similarly melancholy style.

Cristina imagines herself as shy teenager keen to blend in, but “swallowed by the noise”.

It’s a strange, creepy, spectral little curio, with a stuttering polka rhythm and the crackling of static as though from an old-fashioned gramophone – a real haunted house of a tune.

The song plays out to the sinister hissing of insects’ wings, redolent of cicadas, it’s the aural equivalent of that scene in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet when the camera pans down from a pristine lawn to the seething underbelly of black insects crawling beneath.

After 17 years away Boss Hog could have been accused of retreading past glories, Brood X shows they’ve still got plenty to say.

 

 

 

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