Jon Spencer - Spencer Plays The Hits - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Jon Spencer - Spencer Plays The Hits

by Sean Hewson Rating:9 Release Date:2018-11-02
Jon Spencer - Spencer Plays The Hits
Jon Spencer - Spencer Plays The Hits

When the number one blues singer in the country releases his first solo album it is a time for rejoicing. Although, when he is usually backed by musicians as good as Judah Bauer and Russell Simins, maybe it is a time for concern – can he pull it off without the band? Anyway, with his profile at an all-time high because of Bellbottoms’ appearance on Baby Driver, it’s a good time for the great man to get out there, dig that ditch and release Spencer Sings The Hits!

The album starts with Do The Trash Can and it’s business as usual – growling fuzz, a tight three-piece (with Sam Coomes and M.Sord) and Spencer shouting out the sound-bites. It’s the first single from the album and it’s primitive and excellent. Fake is next. The most obvious difference is M.Sord’s drumming. He doesn’t churn out the break-beats like Simins does but, instead, has a primitive, almost Surf-like technique. This works well with Spencer’s tunes and riffs and brings to mind his earlier work as part of Pussy Galore - it’s that kind of Trash-Industrial Rock’n’Roll. Overload is indeed a fuzz overload. A pleasingly moronic two-note riff, a tight arrangement, stabs of organ and some call and response vocals. The fuzz ishe stunning opening line to Gh turned up even higher for Time 2 Be Bad. The rhythm this time is more dancey and there’s the suggestion of a chorus. Spencer’s delivery reminds me of Muddy Waters on this one. ‘I’m a ghost, don’t got a sheet’ is tost. The song itself is a highly-enjoyable combination of a stabbing verse and a rousing chorus with horror organ. Another great two-note riff introduces Beetle Boots and M.Sord is banging metal on this one, referencing Pussy Galore’s beginnings as a Cramps/Neubauten collision. It’s pretty hooky for something so basic and that is one of the greatest things about Spencer’s work – he’s not Brian Wilson but you still remember his songs. I’m not sure what effects pedal is being used on Hornet but it makes the guitar sound like it’s coming down a tube right into your ear. It’s a bit of a toe-tapper too with a guitar figure that is only a couple of notes away from being Take Me Out. Wilderness is probably the closest track to The Blues Explosion and is equally as quotable (‘set the wayback machine for never’ and ‘stick your head in a cave, stick your head in a hole’). Love Handle is a slower blues that is almost Glam Rock and appears to be a meditation on aging (‘don’t need no reading glasses’). I Got The Hits is, fittingly, something of a banger with an identifiable chorus and one of several top guitar solos that Spencer drops throughout the album. The whole band sound over-driven on Alien Humidity. Again, it’s a bit of a banger, although a little more outre this time. The rhythm is a lot more skippy and the music is a tangle of riffs and rhythms. The final track, Cape, combines a Crampsy riff with simple drums and the continuous threat of noise assault bubbling away in the headphones.

This stunning first solo album from Jon Spencer is exactly what you’d want and expect from the man. To me it seems closer to Pussy Galore than The Blues Explosion, but that is an entirely welcome development. With Spencer Plays The Hits Jon Spencer shows that he is every bit as reliable as Nick Cave or Scott Walker – each time he releases a record, you should probably get it.

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As crazy as it is to say, I would take Spencer's playing over the 'greats' (SRV, King(s), etc.) any day of the week.

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