Back on Monday with none other than Everett True, author of Nirvana: The Biography (da Capo Press) and publisher of Plan B Magazine. Week one, True said goodbye to Punk Planet. Week two, he said hello to antifolk. This week, he blows Jon Spencer a kiss. E-mail Everett at email@example.com.
Hugs and Kisses
The Outbursts of Everett True
Heaven knows, I’m no fan of Jon Spencer.
To this day, he still holds the record for my fastest exit from a rock concert: 2003 or thereabouts, the Blues Explosion at Brighton Corn Exchange (I was there to catch the support band, abrasive post-Bugsy duo The Kills, who I didn’t enjoy either) — eight seconds, one chord and a couple of nasty boy-boy beats. That’s all it took. I don’t ever need hoary old man rock-and-roll assaulting my ears.
Guess he isn’t much of a fan of mine, either: I recall seeing an online interview wherein he named me his most hated music journalist (have to join the queue then, behind the Mary Chain, Radiohead, The Verve, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Paul Weller, Suede et al). Not sure what I did to merit such a distinguished sobriquet but hell… it gladdened my heart when I saw my name up there, that I’d inflicted some sort of pain upon the man who in turn had pained my own ears so often.
Odd thing was, though… going further back, I was a big fan of his groovy hate fuck Eighties band Pussy Galore, appreciating immediately their rigorous disregard for convention and aptitude for noise; and I loved the grinding, salacious Amphetamine Reptile band he formed with his wife, Boss Hog. I totally rated a couple of the early Jon Spencer Blues Explosion singles, too — notably ‘Bellbottoms’ and the Christmas single on Sub Pop — but the trouble was, he then got stuck in a time-loop for about a decade, re-treading the same one (admittedly glorious) idea, becoming more and more a self-parody, eventually swapping the keen, loose, analogue sound for a fuller, duller, conventionally trad ‘rock’ sound. It seemed to me like Mr Spencer had long ago forgotten the primary rule of all good rock music; that spontaneity is at its heart.
Seems I was wrong. Yesterday, I slapped on the new Heavy Trash album, Going Way Out With Heavy Trash (Yep Roc) — Spencer in company with Matt Verta-Ray, well-known to the citizens of the Lower East Side, I’d be bound, for his hyper-ventilating Gibson rockabilly guitar blasts, as the man behind the excellent, churning Speedball Baby and producer of many like-minds.
I knew Matt from years back, as the original bassist with New York’s vertiginous, somnambulist, psychedelic dream rockers Madder Rose: he’s slick, smart and totally stylish; nice ‘quiff too. I’d forgotten he was such a whiz behind the boards. And damn, I’d forgotten that Jon Spencer could sing… hiccupping, belting, shouting, punk-rocking, lisping, carolling — the whole damn range, in fact. And that he can sound so resolutely, irredeemably male. Damn, but Heavy Trash have caught me unawares: channelling the humour and hoodoo groove of The Cramps and the Gories, dipping way back in time for the dangerous lilt of Gene Vincent’s ‘Cat Man’ and Link Wray’s twangin’ six-string, borrowing a lick or two from Eddie Cochran, swaggering their way through 12 songs of cutthroat romance and crocodile tears, and all the while sounding as loose and on fire and free as the late night bar band of your dreams.
Fuck it. If Spencer ever reads this, he’ll be taking my appreciation as the ultimate insult anyway.
HUGS AND KISSES TOP 5
1. HEAVY TRASH, “They Were Kings” (from the Yep Rock album Going Way Out With Heavy Trash)
Spencer and cohort-in-crime Verta-Ray pay tribute to all the glorious, unsung rockabilly bands of the past in the best way they know how: with an upbeat belter of a song.
2. THE GHOSTS, “Don’t Want To Hang Around” (from the Catbird album Blue Birds Blood)
Lovelorn melancholia from south England’s Matthew Sawyer recalls — delicately, and wistfully — the downside of Dan Treacy’s TV Personalities and Robert Wyatt.
3. NISTA NJIE NISTA, “Solvnjik” (from the Klangbad album Nee Niemals Nicht)
Pan-European all-female art-rockers channel the spirit of dada, Faust, early Raincoats, proto-feminist improvisers Julie Tippett and Lindsay Cooper, anti-globalisation and a whole mess of humour into one glorious whole.
4. TAP TAP, “100,000 Thoughts” (from the Stolen Recordings album Lanzafame)
Beautiful, rapturous, full-on guitar music — post-Flying Nun records, if you must — from one-fifth of Reading, England’s peerless Pete And The Pirates. Guaranteed to lift all but the most dulled of spirits.
5. THE GO! TEAM, “Doing It Right” (from the Memphis Industries album Proof Of Youth)
Simply, the best mind-fuck sampladelic dance music to come from England since Happy Mondays. Roughly speaking…
HUGS AND KISSES: Everett True on antifolk
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 23, 2007