Brood X by Boss HogRelease date: March 26, 2017
Label: Bronze Rat Records
The rather infrequently active Boss Hog are back and as they express on the opening track ‘Billy’,“they are ‘out of the darkness”. Apart from a few sporadic live dates every year the marital duo of Cristina Martinez (vocals) and Jon Spencer (guitar) along with Jens Jurgensen (bass), Hollis Queens (drums), Mickey Finn (keys), tease and spit out their first new material since 2000’s Whiteout album.
One of many of a cast of bands signed by a major label – for Boss Hog it was Geffen – back in 1995 on the back of the global success of Nirvana, it always felt they were a side project to their main band Pussy Galore, and for Jon since the early 1990’s it has been The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
It seems like an enormously distant dream-like memory remembering Boss Hog play London’s Tottenham Court Road Marquee Club. And their latest sound showcased on Brood X isn’t the same noisy primitive garage punk, no wave, holler from over two decades ago. Instead they recall the indie art punk, shoot from the hip, gritty grooves from their previous 2000 album.
This time around they further install the noise, bustle and harder edges of New York into their sound while bask in an array of cool influences from Blondie to Sonic Youth. The B52’s dance groove playfulness delightfully informs possible album highlight ‘Elevator’ and like the 52’s classic ‘Rock Lobster’ it changes groove half way through as Cristina informs ”this is an emergency’, ‘We’re going down, fasten your seat belt’‘.
The playful ‘Rodea Chica’ sees Cristina and Jon partake in dual vocal duties over a riffy groove backbeat plus air splitting leather whip sounds, as Jon asks, ‘‘What’s wrong baby?’‘ Cristina unleashes sheer exasperation ‘’Well everything.’’ They sound like their having enormous fun.
Cristina’s sassy harder toned vocals bring a tinge of Debbie Harry’s snappy drawl. Plus, add in Blondie’s D.I.Y punk snarly attitude and classy pop sensibilities on ‘Formula X’ and it all conveys a cool arty fiery punk alternative disco. A selection of these songs, especially ‘Signals’, would be a fitting soundtrack for the D.I.Y futuristic dressed audience portrayed in Blondie’s Atomic video.
Although written before the Trump administration entered office there are signs of foreboding changes taking place. The rhythmic pulse and bass drives ‘Ground control’ as Cristina profoundly questions the changes happening to the city that never sleeps, ‘’Where did my city go, is it temporary?’’ but answers her own question with the consequences of gentrification, ‘’this is the cost of privilege.’’ But they merge both struggle with determined hope as Jon urges ”they’re never going to break us down’’.
The harsher toned grooves combines with an underground outsiderness punk attitude while they are astutely aware society’s walls seem to be slowly tumbling down by unwanted forces. The last two tracks see a slowing down of pace as the signs of uncertain changes reverberate in the air as Cristina clings to familiarity on the Sonic Youth tinged arty experimental comedown ‘Sunday routine.’ Followed by the downbeat minimalist drone spliced with Jon’s spiky guitar squeals on ’17’, sees Cristina in reflective mood as teenage outsider, ”stick to the shadows, try to blend in.’’
Despite an erstwhile and brief major record label dabble, Boss Hog remain suited to make a stand in the bohemian punk underground. A most welcome reflective return in these current darker infected uncertain times.