Like all the best guitarists Jon Spencer’s signature sound is instantly recognisable.
Whether it be Pussy Galore, Boss Hog, Heavy Trash or the Blues Explosion, the moment a record comes on you know it’s him.
There’s an electricity about his music you can practically taste – and it’s no different with his debut solo album – the optimistically titled Spencer Sings The Hits.
Like the aural equivalent of a Jackson Pollock action painting, the 12 tracks here come at you from all angles, discharging from the speakers in a high-voltage super-charged assault.
Every song is delivered with absolute commitment, total conviction, there’s no room for half measures here.
Declamatory, sloganeering lyrics sketch out his horror comic creations in vivid, vibrant detail.
This is the stuff of pulp fiction, monster movies, drive-ins and surf shacks, opener Do The Trash Can raising the spectre of garage rock devotees The Cramps.
A twisted take on a dance craze anthem, reminiscent of The Novas’ The Crusher, it’s Spencer at his most mischievous and cartoonish.
Recorded in the same Michigan studio as the Blues Explosion’s Meat and Bone, the rest of the album continues in the same searing vein.
Brighter and less apocalyptic than last year’s Boss Hog album Brood X , it still packs a punch, poking fun at the political patriarchy and bursting the bubble of the male ego.
Boogie-man Trump rears his ugly head with a reference to “fake news,” on Beetle Boots and there’s a flagrant callout to the sisterhood on final track Cape.
Ghost, with its ghoulish descending chorus, tackles issues of invisibility and alienation, while Wilderness – ‘set the way back machine for NEVER!’ – is a celebration of transgression.
Alien Humidity roars by in a squall of dense, paranoid intensity, with just a hint of The Pixies’ Debaser in its galloping chorus.
There are shades of Frank Black too, on I Got The Hits, which punctures the hollow boasts of its posturing protagonist.
With phat major chords and a surf guitar solo, It’s the nearest this record gets to a conventional rock song.
Though this is a solo album, the contribution of Spencer’s fellow musicians should not be underestimated.
Sam Coomes (Quasi/Heatmeiser) delivers squelchy, sleazy sci-fi keyboards, while M.Sord‘s caveman drumming adds real weight and heft to the production.
Spencer’s vocals are on point, trademark whoops and hollers punctuating his deep-throated lascivious croon.
Tracks like Hornet, Overload and Fake crackle with intensity, replete with overdriven guitars and bone-shaking bass lines.
But perhaps best of all is Time 2 Be Bad, which opens with a bestial groan before throwing just about the whole nine yards into the mix.
A hymn to self-preservation, it could equally serve as a stinging satire on the swollen-headed selfishness of Trump’s America.
“No more playtime, Let’s hop, Dumb and ugly/Uncouth, It’s time to be bad, Let’s get rude”, Spencer spits in the first verse.
Clanking metallic percussion and savage guitars collide in a rampaging thrill ride of a tune. Quite brilliant.
Blistering, profane and laugh-out-loud funny – …Sings the Hits is everything you want from a Jon Spencer record.
A riot of day-glo colour and seething energy, it’s the kind of album that makes miserable gits like this reviewer feel happy to be alive. And there’s no higher praise than that!
- Spencer Sings the Hits! will be released November 2nd on In The Red Records and is available to pre-order from this link.
- On the day of the release there will be a live show at Rough Trade East, followed by a signing session. Doors open at 6pm.
- Jon Spencer is currently touring the UK as special guest of The Melvins. Tickets and details here.