Jon Spencer

My first encounter with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was on the 1996 collaboration, “A Ass Pocket of Whiskey”, with the late Mississippi bluesman RL Burnside. The album featured Burnside and the band kicking up one hell of an irreverent racket on a bunch of originals and a lone John Lee Hooker cover. Over the intervening years, the heavy drone blues of Burnside has remained on my playlist but the Blues Explosion inexplicably fell off my radar. Here we are over twenty years later and Jon Spencer, sans the Blues Explosion, has a new album out called ‘Sings the Hits’, recorded at Key Club Recording Company in Benton Harbour, Michigan with Sam Coomes on keyboards, drummer M. Sord (a pseudonym for Mike Gard) and producer Bill Skibble.

The first thing that strikes me on the lead off track and first single, “Do the Trash Can”, a rousing call to arms, is that the primitive noise I associate with the Burnside album is still present and correct, fuzzy overdriven guitars, stray screeches of howling feedback, thumping drums and Spencerís shouty vocals, the omens are good for the remaining eleven songs. On “Fake”, he spits out a stream of bile against a stagnant music industry, “Your shit is fake / Corny as hell / Ideas are flat / And youíre out of tune / Your whole schtick is tired, baby / Counterfeit punk” he sneers over a stuttering four-note riff. It’s a recurring theme on “Wilderness” and “Beetle Boots”, where he intones, “You wearing those fake Beetle boots / You gonna need a new career”, after a while you start to think that maybe some of this venom might be directed at himself.

Jon Spencer

Elsewhere on the album, the use of an old Chevy gas tank and lumps of found metal from a scrap yard are utilised as percussion instruments, much like Tom Waits uses pieces of junk and detritus to add a primal, clattering backdrop to his albums. “Time 2 Be Bad” and “Overload” are prime examples of this approach as heavily distorted guitars riff over rhythm tracks of industrial clangs and rattles. Of course, this album isn’t a bunch of hits at all, it’s a collection of new songs, all written by Spencer, that aims a torrent of vitriol at the embarrassment that is the Trump administration, the fraudulent ëMusic Bizí, and ageing all set to a lo-fi, garage / punk noise.

Jon Spencer

Spencer is now in his fifties, but shows no signs of changing tack, or smoothing over the rough, raggedy arsed edges of his music. If you liked the sonic squall of his previous bands The Blues Explosion, Pussy Galore and Boss Hog (the latter two both featured Spencerís wife Cristina Martinez) you wonít be disappointed with ìI Got the Hitsî. As an alternative to the derivative, bland pap that is foisted on us today dressed up as “Indie Rock”, this record is a blast of fresh air, crank up the volume and prepare to have your ears sandblasted. Available from In the Red Records and to download from 2nd November.

Do The Trash Can
Time 2 Be Bad
Beetle Boots
Love Handle
I Got the Hits
Alien Humidity





Words By John Cherry,