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Heavy Trash – [Album]

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Saturday, 21 November 2009

Anyone familiar with the arc that Pussy Galore/Blues Explosion/Heavy Trash frontman Jon Spencer's career has taken over the last twenty-four years will recognize the shape of, and get excited by, Midnight Soul Serenade – the guitarist's third full length release with Matt Verta-Ray as Heavy Trash. Both the album and the sound of it are familiar turns to the well-seasoned ear.

For those that don't know, look at it this way: when Spencer's main squeeze Pussy Galore ended in 1990, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion but the singer hadn't let go yet – much of JSBX's debut rattled and quaked with the last residual strokes of its predecessor. It was only at Orange that the Blues Explosion really came into its own as a creative entity, after all the knicks and dings had been pounded out. The same could be contended of Heavy Trash – while Going Way Out improved dramatically upon the strains set forth by that band's debut, it was still operating within the JSBX paradigm but Midnight Soul Serenade signals a strong shift into its own kind of center.

Something is obviously different in the run-time of this new album, and it shows from the opening tango shuffle of “Gee, I Really Love You.” There's a more genuine and vintage quality to Spencer's vocals here as the singer sticks closer to a true melody, abandons the novel, “Grade Z” Elvis impersonations that critics likened his voice to in JSBX, actually goes out of his way to write more complete (read: original, rather than loaded with goofy turns of phrase and repetition) lyric sheets and those sheets also have the added benefit of being intelligible. The difference proves to revelatory – like a fish spontaneously growing legs and learning to walk – because after so many years of routing out and winning fans with fun but fluffy and silly trappings, “Gee, I Really Love You” plays it tight and, with a solid guitar figure (Spencer leaves his JSBX-issued, “vacuum cleaner” guitar at home), turns out as the best kind of surprise.

That opening track isn't a one-trick pony done to prove that Spencer and co-singer-guitarist Matt Verta-Ray are capable of writing a straight song either. While there are moments of image-riding to be found on Midnight Soul Serenade (the dark mostly-spoken-word theatrics of “The Pill” sound like the the sort of stuff that could spawn or be in a film by Quentin Tarantino or David Lynch), the lion's share of the album is dedicated to straightforward and totally un-ironic songwriting. The instrumental track “Pimento” exposes some excellent flamenco-inspired guitar chops (not unlike those that would manifest in genuine-article 1950s rockabilly occasionally), “Gentle” plays as fine as The Blasters and “Isolation” slinks along, teasing the back of the blues pocket before “Bedevilment” runs to the beach for a late-night surf session. In each case, Spencer and Verta-Ray stick close to their rockabilly roots but, rather than add a bunch of influences (like punk) to change things up, the duo simply delves into the rich history of rockabilly itself for different ideas to keep things interesting. In that way, as a creative exercise in genre performance Midnight Soul Serenade is a fantastic presentation made all the better if one keeps in mind all of the post-modern angles that both Spencer and Verta-Ray have taken in their previous work. Midnight Soul Serenade is where Spencer and Verta-Ray put their money where their mouth is and come out further ahead than they ever have before.

Artist:

www.heavytrash.net/

www.myspace.com/heavytrash

Album:

Midnight Soul Serenade
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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Heavy Trash – [Album]

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Friday, 14 December 2007

For better or worse (it makes fans cheer) every band that Jon Spencer has ever graced with his presence (be it Blues Explosion, Boss Hog, Pussy Galore or Heavy Trash) has had one thing in common: his trademark, over-driven "vacuum cleaner" guitar sound. That, along with his Grade Z Elvis impersonator vocals, has always been the staple of his sound and the dead giveaway that Going Way Out With… is the guitarist's turn toward straightfaced songwriting is its absence. Rather, what you get on Way Out is a series of vintage-styled, '50s diner anthems complete with all the trimmings: stick-heavy skippity-tap drumming to make the hoop skirts swish, scrappy stand-up bass and tremolo accentuated hollow-body guitar to add just the right amount of raunch and swagger. It works staggeringly well too; songs like "Kissy Baby," "She Baby," "Crazy Pritty Baby" (are we sensing a theme? The last of those three also lifts chords from "Summertime Blues") and "Pure Gold" ring out like the songs Spencer was born to play as the interplay between he and chief collaborator Matt Verta-Ray fairly drips with fun, shared smiles in the studio and, of course, pomade. Joined this time by Toronto's the Sadies and a host of other sidemen to flesh out the songs, Way Out feels like a lark all the way through and that sense of fun is infectious; these retro vamps will make a fan out of anybody and make Rat Fink proud at the same time.

For more information, visit www.heavytrash.net or myspace.com/heavytrash

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