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Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Announce 2015 UK Dates

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Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Announce 2015 UK Dates

Posted on 02 September 2015 by Joe

Our favourite live band Jon Spencer Blues Explosion make a welcome return to the UK next month. The legendary act have announced a four date UK stint, taking in London, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham, while they tour Europe.

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Here are the dates in full:

Oct 20    Electric Ballroom    London, United Kingdom

Oct 21    The Fleece    Bristol, United Kingdom

Oct 22    Sound Control    Manchester, United Kingdom

Oct 23    The Oobleck    Birmingham, United Kingdom

The trio of Spencer, Russell Simms and Judah Bauer formed in 1991 and if you have yet to see them live then this is your chance. We first saw them at Belle and Sebastian’s Bowlie Weekender in 1999 and were blown away by their ferocity. Many more shows have followed and our search for a better live act continues.

The tour is to promote their most recent album Freedom Tower – No Wave Dance Party 2015, which the band bills as “a document of New York City, a chronicle of grit and terror and love”.

For more information about their forthcoming European dates visit here.

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25 Incredible Gigs (1979 – 2013)

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25 Incredible Gigs (1979 – 2013)

Posted on 09 September 2013 by Joe

What makes a great gig? We are looking to compile a list of your best ever gigs via the comment box in this article and to get you thinking our contributors have taken a stroll down memory lane to revisit some of their favourite concerts.

Flaming Lips, Greenman 2010

The Flaming Lips’ explosive Greenman 2010 set. Pic by Arthur Hughes

For some of our writers a great gig is simply being in the right place at the right time, when a band at the peak of their powers performs at a stellar venue. For others it is one of their first tastes of live music, while for others it has been seeing musical history being made. Judging by the responses from our writers going to see the The Flaming Lips, almost anywhere and at any time, is also a sure sign of a gig’s greatness.  So stand up, get your lighter and mobile phone out and settle into a feast of great gig memories. Look forward to reading about your gigs.

Joy Division, Assembly Rooms, Derby, October 1979

Joy Division were the support for The Buzzcocks and played in semi darkness, four stark immobile Mancunian stick insects. It was loud, brutal and threatening, then Ian started doing his mad dancing during She’s Lost Control; some people laughed, we hated them for laughing as for us here was something new. As Shadowplay echoed around this architectural monstrosity we looked at each other and realized punk was over, something had eaten its corpse and was spitting out blood, Ian was dying for us and nobody had noticed. (John Haylock)

Fugazi, Zap Club, Brighton, November 1989

Back in the late 1980s the now closed down Zap Club regularly booked up and coming alternative bands from the US. The legendary and superb bands I saw at this sweaty damp venue, nestled into the old fisherman’s arches on the seafront, included Mudhoney, The Lemonheads, Rollins Band, Teenage Fanclub and Hole. But for me the best of the bunch was Fugazi. I was tucked up just to the side at the front of the packed venue, half on the stage as lead singers Ian Mackaye and Guy Piciotto, together with the precision rhythm section of Joe Lally and Brendan Canty, powered the band through a remarkable set. The timing was shortly after their first EP Margin Walker had come out and before 1990’s Repeater. Breathless, exciting and superb. (Joe Lepper)

Fugazi

Fugazi

Faith No More, Reading Festival, August 1990

In many ways this wasn’t an ideal gig. Sat between Nick Cave and The Cramps on the bill Faith No More were a bit of an oddity. The 1990s were also the decade when Reading was at it’s least “Rock”, it was the most “indie” of all the festivals during this period. The sound quality was also terrible, something that Reading was often guilty of, and a bootleg cassette I picked up some years later sounded pretty terrible. But it was my first real full-on festival rock experience and it seemed pretty wonderful at the time. The band arrived on stage to billowing smoke and an orchestral soundtrack (2001 perhaps?) before launching into a breakneck version of ‘From Out of Nowhere’. They rocked, they sneered (a snatch of New Kids on the Block in the middle of ‘We Care A Lot’) and front-man Mike Patton (replete in a kilt) scaled the stage scaffold. That was how to do it, something that The Pixies failed to emulate with a phoned in headline slot on The Sunday. They clearly already wanted to call it a day. (Dorian Rogers)

Nirvana, Astoria, London, October 1990

Friends at university told me that Nirvana were the next big thing. They played me Bleach, their only album at the time, and I was quite impressed even if it did sound like a Mudhoney rip off act. Turns out my friends were right, live they were sensational and across the 19-strong set Bleach’s tracks and Cobain’s vocals were filled with a passion I hadn’t grasped before. We were also treated to two new songs, Lithium and In Bloom, both destined for their forthcoming album, 1991’s Nevermind, which catapulted them to legend status. This was one of those great, ‘I was there’ moments in music history. (Joe Lepper)

Nirvana

Nirvana

Julian Cope, The Event, Brighton, September 1995

This gig happened at a point where Cope’s popularity (he had a top 40 hit with ‘Try,Try’Try’ from his then latest album 20 Mothers)  was slightly out of kilter with his overall trajectory, having been dropped by Island a few years earlier. It may have been at the beginning of the end for Cope as a popular recording artist, but it was an exemplary live performance. Three sets were played that night involving 39 songs in total, the first being heavily drawn from his most recent albums and including a host of excellent cuts from Peggy Suicide. After this the band left the stage and Cope treated us to a set of solo acoustic numbers, chatting jovially and taking requests from the audience. And as is this wasn’t enough the band returned to the stage and treated us to a full greatest hits set featuring his best known songs both solo and with the Teardrop Explodes. Everything sounded great and at that moment he seemed like the best live performer in the world. (Dorian Rogers)

Neil Young, Phoenix Festival, Warwickshire, July 1997

After an eternity of soundchecking and with a minimum of fuss Young tore into Hey, Hey, My My. It was akin to being in the eye of a screaming tornado of sound and unbelievably it got better with Sedan Delivery, Why Do I Keep Fucking Up, Cinnamon Girl and Down by the River all having their entrails ripped open and fed through sixty thousand watts of amplification. It was guitarmageddon in a cowboy hat as he carried on, nailing acoustic versions of Sugar Mountain, Heart of Gold and Needle and the Damage Done. Forty six  bottles of Evian water later I remember encores consisting of Like a Hurricane, Dangerbird, Rockin’ in the Free World and of course Cortez the Killer. My review in a word – legend. In another – goosebumps. (John Haylock)

Oasis, Cardiff International Arena, December 1997

My first ever gig – this is where it all began. The excitement, anticipation and the immortal feeling of being 15 years old and experiencing your musical idols for the very first time. I remember hearing ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ over the loudspeaker before the large curtain at the front of the stage suddenly opened and the band launched into ‘Be Here Now.’ The volume of those guitars hit me in the chest like a sledgehammer (in the best way possible) and, with that, I was born as an Oasis fan, gig goer and music fan for life. (Scott Hammond)

The Flaming Lips – Various, 1999-2012

Bowlie Weekender, Camber Sands, April 1999 – On the main stage were Divine Comedy, on the smaller stage were The Flaming Lips. Their album Soft Bulletin had just come out and I’d only heard the name not the music before. But as soon as lead singer Wayne Coyne took to the stage, bashing away at a giant gong with his giant personality and tiny, passionate voice, I knew this was no ordinary live band and the Divine Comedy could do one. The Flaming Lips didn’t even need animal costumes and giant space balls back then to be great. (Joe Lepper)

The Flaming Lips, Greenman 2010, pic by Arthur Hughes

The Flaming Lips, Greenman 2010, pic by Arthur Hughes

Bristol Academy, January 2003 – My 18th Birthday night saw a busload of mates journey to see The Flaming Lips at the peak of their powers. Peerless pop conducted by Wayne Coyne’s all-engrossing showmanship. (Matthew Nicholson)

Greenman Festival, Wales, August 2010 -They were totally mindmeltingly awesomeballs. The grandiose epicness of the music married to the everything but the kitchen sink pyrotechnics of a stage show was so out there it would have put the big bang to shame. The power of live music to make you love this beautiful world, this, ladies and gentlemen is what it’s all about. (John Haylock)

Primavera Sound, Porto, June 2012 -I was excited when they were announced as part of the Primavera Sound festival lineup in Porto, but wasn’t prepared for the utter elation I felt seeing them live for the first time. They’re one of the best live acts ever – the colours, the spectacle, the songs – it all makes for a surreal, psychedelic explosion of music, complete with dancing girls and glitter cannons. I defy anyone to come away from a Lips gig feeling anything but on top of the world. (Patrica Turk)

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Bowlie Weekender, Camber Sands, April 1999

This is my second entry from this excellent festival, which was curated by Belle and Sebastian and kick started the All Tomorrow’s Parties events. Watching Jon Spencer’s trio for the first time  made me feel like a 1950s, Tennessee teenager at an early  Elvis gig.  I’d heard of Spencer’s band, I heard the odd track on CD, but nothing could prepare me for the incredible performance of dirty rock ‘n’ roll from this incredible front man, Judah Bauer and Russell Simins. To this day the most exciting live act I’ve ever seen.  (Joe Lepper)

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Radiohead, South Park, Oxford, July 2001

A wet homecoming night in which my favourite band headed a stupendous line-up (Humphrey Littleton, Sigur Ros, Supergrass, Beck) and delivered a heavyweight set of alt-rock anthems. (Matthew Nicholson)

Guided By Voices, ULU London, September 2003

This was the last time that Guided By Voices played in England, and possibly the only time that I’ll ever get to see them play. Bob Pollard’s famous hatred of travelling and their aborted ATP show in 2012 give little hope of a UK gig any time soon. Many people are stuck on the “classic” line-up of the band, but this gig featured the twin guitars of Doug Gillard and Nate Farley and they sounded pretty amazing to me. Blasting through a set that drew heavily from the then-current Earthquake Glue album we were treated to dozens of oddities and classics with fan favourites ‘Game of Pricks’, ‘I Am A Scientist’ and ‘Echos Myron’ getting a  particularly enthusiastic reception. This is a band that works hard playing a huge set (around 45 songs on this occassion) with an encore that lasted longer than some acts entire back catalogue. Legendary. (Dorian Rogers)

Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices

Roger Waters, Hyde Park, London, July 2007

As with many 16 year old teenage boys, desperate for intellectual stimulation and strange sensations, I was drawn to the minimalist soundscapes and sixth form philosophy of Pink Floyd. Listening to Dark Side of the Moon while staring at the ceiling and broodily muttering about the evils of Money was heaven to a tubby pubescent teenager with few social skills and no girlfriend. Seeing Roger Waters make a rare performance of the entirety of Dark Side of the Moon at this central London park, arms wrapped around fellow Floyd Fanatics, was made all the more luscious as the moon came out and he sang the final refrains. (Conal Dougan)

Monsters of Folk, Cardiff Coal Exchange, November 2009

An intimate gig in front of a seated audience, the supergroup played for a whopping 2 hours and 45 minutes. Playing the MOF album in its entirety along with a panoply of Bright Eyes, M Ward and My Morning Jacket tunes, I couldn’t quite believe I was bearing witness to two of my all-time musical heroes (Conor Oberst and Ward) on stage in this tiny space in Cardiff Bay. Costing less than £15 a ticket and with only 300 people in attendance, I truly blessed the world for its lack of taste. (Scott Hammond)

Blur, Glastonbury Festival, July  2009

Watching a reformed band  on the heritage rock scene can offer be a sad experience. Not so when Blur decided to reform for a run of gigs that included a show stopping set at Glastonbury. They played everything you hoped they would but it was Tender that provided the real spine tingling moment and, indeed, the mass singalong. (Matthew Nicholson)

 

Pulp Brixton Academy, London, September 2011

Growing up in Australia, Pulp were a band that I thought I’d never get to see live. But then, as so many do, they reformed and toured. They’re the songs from my teenage years and seeing Jarvis up close and personal was a girlhood dream come true. Nothing compares to hearing and seeing your old-time favourites performed live and it was a terrific moment of past-and-present excitement all rolled into one. Jarvis is still my hero. I even have his face on my tea mug. I’m 30. (Patricia Turk)

Pulp

Pulp, Brixton Academy, 2011. Pic by Patricia Turk

Field Music and Stealing Sheep, The Fleece, Bristol, February 2012

Sometimes gigs are just perfect in every way from venue to support to crowd to stage banter. Field Music’s musical talent is well known on record, but live their mixture of King Crimson prog rock with the jerky pop of XTC is even more incredible. Here they were on top form, rattling out 23 tracks, from their back catalogue and to promote their then latest album Plumb.  They were funny  as well in between songs and just about the most engaging band you’ll ever see. To top it all the support act, Liverpool’s Stealing Sheep, left the packed crowd at this legendary venue in awe with their blend of folk, hippy chic and surf rock. The best support act I have ever and probably will ever see. (Joe Lepper)

Field Music, The Fleece, Bristol, 2012

Field Music, The Fleece, Bristol, 2012

Django Django, Bestival, Isle of Wight, September 2012

The highlight of an astounding festival, featuring knock-out gigs by De La Soul, Stevie Wonder and The XX, was a small tent performance by Django Django. With the speaker volume tempered to make later headline acts more of a spectacle, the crowd was pulled ever closer to the stage to be immersed in their folktronica rhythms. The crowd joined to become a single amorphous beast, embracing each other to shift body weight and crouch for the peak of Default. Jazz fags and rum punches were merrily shared with trucker women and inebriated Glaswegians as the best weekend of my life got off to the perfect start. (Conal Dougan)

First Aid Kit, Moles, Bath, September 2012

Enjoying a pre-gig pint in a quiet pub adjacent to Moles, I suddenly saw the young Swedish sisters emerge from a neighbouring building and casually walk towards the venue completely without regard from anyone passing by. It was almost like they weren’t brilliantly talented, precocious songwriting prodigies or something. I got to the door, handed over my £10 ticket and was astonished to find that the 220 capacity venue hadn’t yet sold out. I then found my standing space just 10 feet away from  Klara, Johanna and those gorgeous vocal harmonies. (Scott Hammond)

First Aid Kit, 2012

First Aid Kit, circa 2012. Pic by Joe Lepper

Tame Impala, Primavera Festival, Barcelona, May 2013

Primavera Festival is renowned for its outstanding sound quality above its atmosphere, with main stage headline sets sounding intimate and personal. Upon arriving early on the first day, however, we really were treated to an intimate gig, with Tame Impala rehearsing their full set to only a handful of us. Frontman Kevin Parker’s remark that “we thought there would be more of you here” came just before we were escorted out by a security team, embarrassed from mistakenly letting us in early. The brilliant set they played later that night to a huge crowd, the balmy sea breeze flowing through Parker’s hair as the band waded through their psychedelic back catalogue, was made all the more magical by having seen them rehearse for our sole pleasure. (Conal Dougan)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Glastonbury Festival, June 2013

Nestled about 20 people back from the main Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2013 on a Sunday evening I was expecting to be impressed by Nick Cave but not completely blown away by his brilliance. Across his hour long set he provided a masterclass in live performance. The whole experience was made even better by his scheduling just before the Folk-lite of Mumford and Sons. Their eager young fans being beaten back verbally by Cave’s middle aged hardcore fans was great to see. The poor Mumford dears that sneaked through were left open mouthed as Cave showed them how live music should be played. And as if that wasn’t enough,  during Stagger Lee  Cave moved into the crowd and serenaded a female fan dressed entirely in white, who appeared atop a pair of shoulders like Kylie’s ghost rising out of the swamp. (Joe Lepper)

Nick Cave, crowd schmoozing at Glastonbury, 2013.

Nick Cave crowd schmoozing at Glastonbury, 2013. Pic by Joe Lepper

The National, Roundhouse, London, June 2013

When a snap show at the Roundhouse was announced I was more than prepared to spend an hour and half in an online queue to see one of my most favourite bands in one my most favourite venues. It was everything I wanted it to be. The National are a special band of super talented musicians, led by an extraordinary voice in Matt Berninger. The songs are emotional, intelligent and epic, and the gig was intense, driven, amazing. There’s nothing like being part of an audience that adores the band they’re seeing. Spectacular. (Patricia Turk)

Melody’s Echo Chamber, Greenman Festival, August 2013

Propelled by Melody Prochet’s ethereal floaty vocals, the band add crunch and added freak out, I stood there entranced like a good looking deer in the headlights of a pop car, that is until I got so carried away during Crystallized that I became a danger to passing aircraft. They swept me up in a whirling vortex of sound that I keep playing back in my mind like some antiquated reel to reel tape recorder. A week after this gig and I wanted to see them again and again, I want to go to every gig, become an uber fan, have Melody’s poster on my wall. (John Haylock)

Remember to tell us about your favourite gigs in the comment box below.

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Top 100 Albums (60-51)

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Top 100 Albums (60-51)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

We are approaching the half way point  as we compile our Top 100 indie and alternative albums of all time. There are some albums here you will have seen on similar lists before. But we’ve also opted for some obscurities with the aim of highlighting some different music for you to seek out.

We have been releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. We hope you enjoy this fourth instalment. Here’s our previous instalments ( 70-61 , 80 – 7190 -81 , 100-91).  See you next week for 50-41.

Also, for  more great albums visit our  Classic Albums section

60.Modest mouse  – Good news for people who love bad news

Modest Mouse were already one of the more successful US alternative acts around during the early 2000s. With the release of this 2004 album their popularity went through the roof. Thanks to singles like ‘Float On’ and ‘Ocean Breathes Salty’ the album became Platinum selling and gave the band a Grammy nomination. While achieving mainstream success the album also retained the band’s edge and showcases a range of styles to appease the casual listener and hardcore Modest Mouse fan alike. The slow banjo strum of ‘Berkowski’, the beautiful ‘Blame it on the Tetons’ and the frenetic ‘Satin in a Coffin’  are removed enough from the mass appeal of  the killer riff of ‘Float On’ to earn this a justified place in our Top 100 list.

59. Apples in Stereo – The Discovery of a World Inside The Moone

Robert Schneider’s The Apples In Stereo are the best place to start when listening to the Elephant 6 and The Discovery Of A World Inside The Moone is their finest hour. From horn blasting opener ‘Go!’ to the acoustic whimsy of ‘The Afternoon’ it never puts a foot wrong. The album manages to be a great retro homage without ever falling into the trap of being a pointless exercise in nostalgia. Vocal harmony, hand claps and a genius command of melody runs throughout the album. Classic pop, psyche, garage and even white funk (‘The Bird That You Can’t See’) make for a really enjoyable set.

58. Dag Nasty  – Can I Say

Along with Fugazi  Dag Nasty emerged form the ashes of DC punk outfit Minor Threat. While Minor Threat’s lead singer Ian Mackaye took a more experimental approach to music with Fugazi, Dag Nasty took a simpler but no less effective route. While sticking to short songs about everyday  teenage frustrations, of friendships and politics the  focus was on melody, with singer Dave Smalley’s vocals perfectly matching former Minor Threat guitarist Brian Baker’s wondrous technique of picking chords on this their debut album. From the title track through to ‘Thin Line’ and ‘Values Here’ to this day the excitement level hasn’t dropped, with the songs sounding as fresh and relevant now as when we first heard them years ago as teenagers when it was released in  1986. Wig Out At Denkos, the follow up album with vocalist Peter Cortner, who is now in The Gerunds, is also well worth checking out. To read our full review of Can I Say visit here.

57. Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel – Nail

Jim Thirwell (AKA Clint Ruin) has been releasing single syllable four letter titled albums under the varied Foetus banner for 30 years. The best of these as Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel in the mid-1980s. An early exponent of the “industrial” sound he produced albums that had a much more varied sonic sound-scape than many of his contemporaries. Built around metallic percussion and tape loops Nail includes a wide and varied set of instrumental sounds from classical orchestration, fierce guitars, big band jazz, twang guitar and old style rock ‘n’ roll underneath Thirwell’s guttural snarling. The album has an impact and is clearly trying to shock (murder, including the Manson family massacre, features prominently) but it features some fantastic music; ‘Descent Into The Inferno’ and ‘The Throne Of Agony’ belie their titles by being great pop tunes and full of catchy hooks.

56.Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

The story behind this debut album from Justin Vernon recording as Bon Iver is one of the most compelling in our list. After splitting from his band DeYarmond Edison and his girlfriend he holed up in a cabin in the woods for three months with his guitar and some  songs of loss and love he had built up over the years. The end result was this hauntingly beautiful collection. As remote as his isolated cabin the songs are sparse but make full use of a full band feel and even a horn section when necessary. Tracks such as ‘Skinny Love’ and ‘re:Stacks’ stand up on their own, but it as part of this unique project, which made our Top Albums of 2008 list,  that they really come alive.

55. Fatima Mansions – Viva Dead Ponies

Viva Dead Ponies was the second album by former Microdisney singer Cathal Coughlan and stands as his greatest music achievement. Uncompromising, aggressive, abrasive and acerbic yet sugar coated with sweet melodies and pretty synth pop flourishes. Read more about this album in our Classic Albums section.

54. Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque

There are so many good albums from Scottish band Teenage Fanclub to choose from. We could have picked excellent debut Catholic Education, 1993’s Grand Prix or 1994’s Thirteen. But we’ve plumped for third album Bandwagonesque as our choice. More accessible than Catholic Education and coming after the disastrously bad The King, the sound was crisper, full of Big Star style guitar riffs and some fine melodies. It signalled a band with renewed strength from classy singles like ‘What You Do To Me’ to the  melancholy ‘December’.

53. Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade

Zen Arcade represented a real shift in the hardcore punk landscape on its release in 1984. The first two Hüsker Dü albums were all about short, sharp, noisy, fast blasts, with not a big need for melody. This is a 23 song concept album with a  range of styles and approaches, a kind of indie punk White Album. The punk aesthetic is there, the production is thin and much of the music is loud and brutal; the who record was recorded and mixed in 85 hours and most of the songs captured in a single take. Amongst this are acoustic numbers, piano driven instrumentals and experimental sounds-capes, totally at odds with what their audience would have been expecting. The thing that makes this record really great is the quality of the songwriting, from both the bands singers Grant Hart and Bob Mould. Mould supplies ‘Something I Learned Today’, ‘Broken Heart, Broken Home’ and ‘Chartered Trips’. Hart matches this with ‘Never Talking To You Again’, ‘Pink Turns To Blue’ and ‘Somewhere”. These are all great catchy hardcore punk pop tunes and make this a record that is ambitious and enjoyable.

52. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Orange

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in their 1990s prime were one of the best live acts around. Like Jerry Lee Lewis mixed with The Cramps their dirty take on rock ‘n’ roll could have come from the devil himself. The fury and energy of their live shows were impossible to truly capture on CD, but this 1994 album by the band was probably as close as they got.  From the first sensational disco stringed intro of ‘Bellbottoms’ onwards this is an album meant to be played loud. From ‘Dang’ to ‘Flavor’ to ‘Blues X Man’ there’s no let up with Spencer like a filthy southern preacher bellowing ‘blooooozze explosion’ at every opportunity. It also heralded a more experimental period for the band, with the 2010 reissue featuring some interesting remixes blending rap, soul and dance music with the best rock ‘n’ roll since the 1950s.

51.Television – Marquee Moon

‘Marquee Moon’ is a near perfect debut album from a band who would go on to release just one more album before taking a 14 year break. If it had been the only thing they released they would still be seen as an important part of the New York punk and new wave scene, it is too good an artifact of that time. The guitar interplay between singer Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd is brilliant, sparse when it needs to be, and is copied heavily to this day. This tight, stripped down musical approach is paired with a set of songs that never put a foot wrong. ‘Venus’ and ‘Prove It’ are highlights, but the album centers on the  title track, a song that never wears out its welcome for any of the 10 minutes and 47 seconds running time.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Heavy Trash – Midnight Soul Serenade

Posted on 20 September 2010 by Joe

The scene in David Lynch’s 1950s set film Blue Velvet where the innocent teenager Kyle MacLachlan hides in a wadrobe, watching on as Dennis Hopper sexually humiliates Isabella Rossellini is one of the most harrowing in cinema. Peering through a crack in the door he sees Hopper, complete with oxygen mask, bend down in front of Rossellini, swearing and sweating as he sweeps aside the veneer of the rock ‘n’ roll era to reveal the dark, deviant real world underneath.

That look of shock in MacLachlan’s eyes is something that Jon Spencer has been looking to recreate in his audiences throughout his career. From his bands Pussy Galore to the Blues Explosion and now Heavy Trash, his rockabilly collaboration with guitarist Matt Verta-Ray, Spencer has been specialising in producing his unique brand of down-right dirty, out-of-control rock ‘n’ roll.

While Heavy Trash’s third album Midnight Soul Serenade can never recreate the power of seeing Spencer live it is an album that will not disappoint his loyal followers.

Take the track ‘The Pill’, a dark, filthy tale of sex and drugs in a hotel room. “I took the pill and slipped it underneath my tongue, you took yours and passed me the bottle. The hotel bedspread was a mess of colours, looked like somebody had thrown-up.” While Elvis’s hotel had heartbreak, Spencer’s has pills, booze and vomit.

Among the best tracks on an album, that faithfully recreates the 1950s rock and roll production style, is ‘(Sometimes You got To Be) Gentle’. The track would not have sounded out of place during the peak of Spencer’s Blue Explosion era and is among the dirtiest on the album. Lyrics such as ‘Stick it up inside, You got to be gentle. And push it up, You gotta to be sweet’, leave absolutely nothing to the imagination.  Other high points include a cover of  LaVern Baker’s frenetic 1950s track ‘Bumble Bee’.

Midnight Soul Serenade is a thrilling listen, not the kind of thing you can play in front of your mum, or a vicar, but wasn’t that always the point of rock ‘n’ roll?

7.5/10

by Joe Lepper, Oct 2009

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