It seems odd that Jon Spencer is probably mostly viewed as an underground artist nowadays, when the man had such a vast influence on a generation of indie music fans. You are probably most familiar with Spencer as “the guy whose band provides the song for that opening car chase scene in Baby Driver.” Or maybe you were at Pitchfork Music Festival a few years ago when Jon Spencer Blues Explosion played in steamy heat and you marveled at how the lanky frontman on a caterwauling guitar was swathed in leather and seemed about ready to either explode or melt. You most certainly probably aren’t aware that he and his future wife fronted the grimy downtown NYC skronk rawk band Pussy Galore in the ‘80s, or that the pair later went on to team up in the slightly more pop-leaning Boss Hog.
But just because a newer generation of listeners might not be aware of Spencer’s contributions to music doesn’t make the man any less of a legend.
Last year Spencer took a break from the Blues Explosion to release his first solo album, Spencer Plays The Hits. The album’s title is a bit of tongue in cheek humor since these are only hits in an alternate universe, but the title is more apt than one would expect since its contents do tend to blend the best bits of the Blues Explosion and Pussy Galore. Spencer’s signature squalling guitar is in full effect here, and his lyrics are barked out with the fervor of a Sunday service preacher in a sweltering church, but it also incorporates some of the found sound percussion that marked his earlier work with Pussy Galore. At times the song’s rhythms are punctuated by hammers on garbage can lids and metal pipes, and I have zero qualms about that. All together, it comes across as an encapsulation of the man’s entire career in a tidy solo release.
The notion of Spencer bringing his sound into the cozy confines of Schubas tonight, August 30, is kinda mind-boggling. Judging by photos from recent shows he’s touring with two drummers (one of them is Bob Bert, one of Spencer’s Pussy Galore bandmates) and the setlists have showcased appearances of songs from most of his other musical projects through the decades, including his garage rockabilly side project Heavy Trash. So whether you’re a longtime fan or have only been exposed to Spencer elliptically (or not at all) this could be a show to remember. My one recommendation? Dress light, because things will get sweaty.
Jon Spencer plays Scubas tonight, August 30, with Demolition Doll Rods opening, and tickets are still available.