By Noah Lopez
Arizona Summer Wildcat
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Experimental Remixes Extended Playing
It seems everywhere I look there's somebody or some 'zine jumping on the "Bash Jon Spencer" bandwagon. With the former Pussy Galore frontman's last album Orange came an avalanche of coverage and hype, which apparently helped alert cynical Spencer fans that the New York junk auteur has a shtick attached to his work.
Sure, the James Brownian grunts and call-outs might get tiring, but it never seems to get in the way of the Blues Explosion groove. And besides, what New York musician doesn't have a shtick? Lou Reed? Thurston Moore? Beastie Boys? Jad Fair? I can't think of one.
All that aside, the Blues Explosion's latest EP isn't going to help things much. I mean, a "remix album"? Yuck. The sick taste in your mouth doesn't improve much when you hear the Alt-rock-hero lineup consigned to do the remixing ÄMike D. and Beck; Moby; the Wu-Tang Clan; Dub Narcotic Sound System. Is that the sound of someone's indie cred dropping even further?
The kick-off track, "Bellbottoms" remixed by U.N.K.L.E. (whoever the hell that is), confirms the "why bother" feeling one might have towards this release. "Bellbottoms" is stripped down to a looped guitar line, given a beefed up bass line and some poor scratching, and removed from its original groovy origin. It quickly bores. The two remixes of "Flavor" by Mike D. and Beck are also troublesome. The tracks are lost in a mess of bad sampling and a bad rap by Beck.
The Dub Narcotic Sound System remix of "Soul Typecast" is slightly better. It's doubtful that Calvin Johnson (jeez, how's that for upping the shtick element!) perceives himself as anything remotely funky, which helps give his project a leg up on the Mike D./Beck reworkings. D.N.S.S. seems to stumble into a hip aura, with an excellent sample and Johnson's bumbling vocals.
The techno hype machine of Moby surfaces to give "Greyhound" a cool ethereal feel, that quickly dissipates into the Wu-Tang Clan's butchering of the same track. Just when you're glad the EP is over, a bonus track of bad sampling and uncreative soundbiting (stooping as low as answering machine messages) to further enforce the need to eject the disc.
Hopefully Spencer will come back to his senses and bring things back to the music. Well, maybe he will after his next "Details" fashion shoot.
George Jones Sings Like the Dickens!
Razor and Tie Records
It's about time the country legends of the '50s and '60s are getting their due. With Sundazed reissuing a slew of Buck Owens titles, and Merle Haggard finally getting recognition through tribute albums and his own reissues on Razor and Tie, some of America's finest singer/songwriters are reemerging from their dusty vinyl chambers.
And then along came Jones. George Jones was/is one of the greatest country belters ever to lay tracks on a record. His honey-smooth vocals have a touch of Hank Williams phrasing and tone and a dab of Buck Owen's boomy bottom, but with a versatility that surpasses both. Jones could sing around corners, his vocal lines weaving around emotions with ease. Throughout his career, Jones could sing the tenderness of a broken heart ballad, or the demanding chores of a novelty song.
Sings Like the Dickens! takes the latter route. One of the finest albums he cut for United Artists, Sings Like the Dickens! is a tribute to the great novelty country made famous by Little Jimmie Dickens. Sings Like the Dickens! has a handful of Dickens originals such as "My Heart's Bouquet" coupled with such classics as the Louvin Brothers wispy "I'm Just Blue Enough" and Roger Miller's near-ballad "When Your House Is Not A Home." There's not a single misstep on the album, and Jones more than capably drives the songs home with levity and strength.
This is a fine escape from the John Michael Montgomery embarrassments associated with '90s country.
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