For The Masses
Awwwlrighty Momma! Dontcha step on his fake snakeskin boots! Seven albums into his career as the maggot in winkle-pickers of the Big Apple, Jon Spencer is showing no signs of toning down his cat-skinn
Awwwlrighty Momma! Dontcha step on his fake snakeskin boots! Seven albums into his career as the maggot in winkle-pickers of the Big Apple, Jon Spencer is showing no signs of toning down his cat-skinning baadman Old Testament rock’n’roller act. There is an explosion, a shout of [I]”Let’s have a party!”[/I] and the next audible phrase amongst the gruntin’, hollerin’, howlin’ Jerry Lee gone vocal whoopee-making is our Jon announcing, [I]”I do not play blues, I play uh-rock’n’roll”[/I].
And indeed they uh-do. Spencer and his sidemen Judah Bauer and Russell Simins are a tribute to the spirit of a specific branch of Elvis-derived retro Americana which is far too comedic and pleased with itself to be lonesome. Theirs is a nasty-but-nice fork of the blues delta and, as the LP’s credit list confirms, it brings them plenty of friends. ‘Acme’ is produced by Steve Albini, features collaborations with revered US bluesist Calvin Johnson, avant hip-hoppist Dr Octagon, and Berlin noise loon Alec Empire, as well as cameos from members of Boss Hog and Luscious Jackson. The party up there in the Chicago studios was clearly a good one – if you like rock’n’roll charades, that is.
Albini has recorded it in appropriately bone-raw style, and there’s enough funk and hip-hop to allow Bauer to get away with a fair proportion of his mangled guitar jamming. For the most part they rattle along nicely, throwing Al Green-meets-Muddy Waters shapes on ‘Magical Colours’, leaning towards James Brown doo-wop on ‘Do You Wanna Get Heavy?’ and lurchin’ into guitar slamming overdrive for ‘High Gear’. It’s an engaging soundtrack of liquor’n’dust’n’machismo, a kind of textbook Greil Marcus soundtrack, but the extent to which it relies on a wry appreciation of ’50s clichis shows through in the moments where they ditch the stylistic conservatism.
The Alec Empire collision, ‘Attack’, is not much to get excited about, but ‘Lovin’ Machine’ is built on a magnificent, full-on hip-hop loop, and ‘Talk About The Blues’ is hugely powerful, thanks to its mangling of colossal beats, evil guitars and distorted neo-jungle basslines. At these successful departures from the Elvis impersonator with a flick-knife schtick, it’s hard not to wish that Spencer’s persona was less goodness gracious great balls of satire.
With a good deal of bourbon in your belly and plenty of Brylcreem on your sense of humour, this is a thoroughly enjoyable rock’n’roll record. Just don’t go near it ungreased.