Review : Heavy Trash - Midnight Soul Serenade
DustedmagazineHeavy Trash began three albums ago in 2005 out of Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray’s shared affection for rockabilly – and particularly Charlie Feathers. Though never straitjacketed into the genre, their first, self-titled album echoed the form’s hiccupping, gulping vocalizations, its minimalist rhythms, its confounding balance of tradition and deep-seated weirdness. A second effort, recorded with the Sadies, sported a more full-blooded, conventionally country rock sound, slipping toward the end into hallucinatory, swamp-gassed blues. With this third album, Midnight Soul Serenade Spencer and Verta-Ray heat-warp all kinds of hoary traditions, their old-time rockabilly sincerity twisted with the green gleam of madness, their shout-along soul choruses redolent with sexual violence. The music is vastly entertaining, devilish, solder trickles of white-hot intensity running through cracks in its nailed-down façade. It’s contained, but at the same time, so over the top that you never know whether the record – and, by extension, the whole Heavy Trash project – is some kind of baroque kind of practical joke.
You have to start with Spencer, even though he is, admittedly, not the whole of Heavy Trash. Verta-Ray’s concise, inflammatory guitar work, the brittle clickety clack of drum sticks (Sam Baker from Lambchop this time), the mad head-long plunking of acoustic bass (Simon Chardiet) are all parts of the formula. Still, the theatricality, the menace, the outsized rant or emphatic gesture – all of the elements that may or may not make Heavy Trash into an elaborate put on – those come from Spencer. With Midnight Soul Serenade he is in particularly “out there” form. When he is trying to be good, as on the opener, “Gee, I Really Love You,” Spencer holds a supplicant’s bouquet of faded flowers behind his back, ill-toothed ingratiation in his smile. Shoehorned into the most straight-laced of old-time sentiment and rickety wire frame percussion, he is only vaguely disturbing. But when he is letting the freak flag fly, as on the evil vamping, Daddy-Rolling-Stoning “Good Man,” no cartoon is scarier. (No one, certainly, could pull off a chorus like this, with Tennessee’s Those Darlins’ making sex noises in the background.) And as for “The Pill,” a fever dream of blues and substance-alteration and erotic deviance, it would be a parody if anyone else tried it. It’s almost a parody as it is, especially when Spencer brings Dorothy and the ruby slippers in out of nowhere....full text
BBCThe point at which Jon Spencer truly crafted his own identity was with his Blues Explosion band. As the name suggests, their music was frequently loud, bombastic and loose limbed, as well as having the sense of adventure to strip to the bone and put themselves back together again, most notably with their Acme Plus remix album.
With Heavy Trash now on their third album, it can no longer be considered a side project. Spencer’s collaboration with New York alt-rock veteran Matt Verta-Ray was always destined to be a slightly different beast, but still one that retains enough of his hangdog charm and swagger to delight critics and his pre-existing fanbase. Midnight Soul Serenade continues Spencer’s ever-present trend of storytelling and effortlessly switching from upbeat moments that propel themselves with their own momentum to quieter, more introspective numbers where the vocals almost become a voiceover. The Pill barely registers a pulse, but carries enough ominous atmospherics under a squealing guitar line to sound like the opening number of a well-thumbed pulp fiction pot boiler turned into a musical. That’s not to say that Midnight Soul Serenade sounds phoned in, though. Instead, each number is breezed through with laconic charm; they’re still, in essence, singing the blues, but wear its tell-tale signs like a well-fitting curse....full text
Eil1. Gee, I Really Love You
2. Good Man
3. Bumble Bee
4. The Pill
6. (Sometimes You Got To Be) Gentle
9. Sweet Little Bird
10. That's What Your Love Gets
11. In My Heart...full text
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