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Boss Hog | White Out | review | rock | Lollipop
White Out (In the Red)
by Jon Sarre
1995, the year Boss Hog last put a record out, coincided with the release of Orange, the first mediocre Jon Spencer Blues Explosion album. Perhaps not coincidentally, that LP marked the beginning of Spencer's continuing flirtation with the powers that be hip, thems who were gonna make him bigger than Beck ever dreamed. That has yet to happen (and to be accurate, Mr. Blues Xploition's been most likely working towards the real money since his Pussy Galore days, tho' tryin' to be punk rock's answer to Cindy Sherman wasn't gonna do it for him). Hell, all JS has to show for it, at this point, is a couple records gone from simply okay to downright lousy.
To compare Boss Hog's self-titled Geffen debut (that's '95's Boss Hog, 'twas also destined to be their swansong for DGC, as they were dropped by the latest Seagram's-merger-with-everybody-in-the-biz "reorganization") with Orange, as Jonny Spencer plays a major role in both bands (tho' Boss Hog is nominally the property of Mrs. Spencer, Cristina Martinez, sorta like how the Honeymoon Killers circa Hung Far Low of J. Spencer, R. Simins, J. Bauer - the Bluuuueeesss Explosion!!! Repeat x2 - and J. Teel was Jerry Teel's band), is to see the former as a progression on the bigfatchoprrrrrock foundation underscored by their earlier career on meat'n'potatoes Amphetamine Reptile, whilst the latter ditches the organic guitar!guitar!drums!loud!louder! set-up of the Explosion's James Brown/Stones/mutherfuckin' blues, even, first two records in favor of disco strings and hip hop colors. What all a this means is Boss Hog was a better fuckin' rock'n'roll slab than the praise-receiving Orange and Spencer's outfit's output has strayed even further from that (tenuous) territory.
White Out, appearing in the wake of the Explosion's recent Acme (and the two related/remix/alt takes versions), shows much of those same JSBE tendencies toward trend sniffing (well, since Jon & Cristina now have a family...), despite featuring the, by now, usual crew (Martinez, Spencer, Hollis Queens, Jens Jorgenson with the relativity new addition of keyboard jockey Mark Boyce, ex of the Goats, but I think he also helped out on former Mule frontman P.W. Long's Reelfoot real rock thang a couple years ago). In fact, if anything, Boss Hog may've beaten the Blues Explosion into danceband land. Queens' drums've got the feel of being programmed, the guitars and bass soullessly loop around Boyce's soulman keys. The whole friggin'package (and, as product, this is the best description for this here unit) has a wonderfully-produced gloss with no excitement or surprises available. Cristina, out in front, could always fuckin' sing, but never has she sounded so much like a goddamned session player (and in a pop world fulla divas who've got better pipes and better management, that ain't so good).
This album's separate tracks don't so much defy description as negate it: everything's sooooo funky, radio-ready, machine-like, interchangeable; Spencer's "yeaaahs" and "alllrrights," his "c'mon"s and "get down"s coulda been sampled from Acme or anywhere! Bottomline, this record is a once-good band's monument to their producer and mixer. White Out? Nah, try snowjob.
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