It’s been 17 long years since Boss Hog last had an album to tour, so Friday’s show at Hackney’s Oslo was an event not to be missed.
After a subtly beguiling support slot from Aussie songsmith Suzie Stapleton, the tiny above bar venue began filling rapidly in anticipation of one of New York city’s most carnal and provocative cult acts.
Noise-core aficionados of all ages were in attendance, reflecting the extraordinary longevity of a band that’s been bursting eardrums and ripping up stages since 1989.
Sirens heralding their presence, the band tear into the excellent Wichita Grey from last year’s comeback EP Brood Star and it’s raw power all the way from then on.
Songs rip by at breakneck speed, the band stretched to the limit, yet just about managing to keep it all together.
A whirl of energy, frontwoman Cristina Martinez dominates proceedings, constantly criss-crossing the stage as she belts out her vocals.
Menacingly seductive on record, live she’s a bubbly, joyous presence, all smiles as she takes time out to introduce the rest of the band.
Guitarist Jon Spencer, leader of Blues Explosion and Pussy Galore. is happy here to play second fiddle to his wife, skilfully creating space in his machine gun blues breaks for her voice to shine through.
There’s a genuine crackle of electricity between them, particularly when he steps up to the mic to back her on vocals.
Drummer Hollis Queens, partially hidden at the back of the small stage, still leaves her mark, joining in the call and response vocal interplay while pounding away at her kit.
Between song repartee is kept to a minimum, though Martinez leaves the crowd in no doubt about her views on the new incumbent of the White House.
“I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote this, but it quickly became about our new dictator,” she says, before launching into Disgrace.
New songs from the upcoming Brood X album (see EP review), merge seamlessly with older material like the funky I Dig U and the ferocious “suicide” screaming of Ski Bunny.
Minor technical difficulties ensue during the encore, during which a fan’s request gets a merciless rebuffing.
“That’s not happening tonight honey,” Martinez purrs, before adding: “Do you hear that a lot from females?”
A brief nature lesson on cicadas follows, as a prelude to an airing of new track 17.
A slow (for them) and reflective song with a staccato almost polka rhythm – it may just be the best thing they’ve done to date.
Then all too soon it’s all over and ears ringing, we scuttle back out into the freezing February night.
Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait another 17 years before they’re back this way again.
- Boss Hog’s new album Brood X is due for release via Bronze Rat Records on March 24