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Trash and Vaudeville

Heavy Trash, Power Solo, Jail Weddings

The Echo, November 10

I’m trying to understand why Jon Spencer is doing this. This egomaniacal vanity study called Heavy Trash, which I could take for ironic stagecraft if I didn’t think that his inflated id is all too authentic, is Jon Spencer’s current musical project, orchestrated alongside Speedball Baby’s handsome guitarist Matt Verta-Ray.

There’s nothing wrong with rockabilly music, which Heavy Trash are delivering in its most digestible form. There’s nothing wrong with twangy foot-stomping rhythms, which Heavy Trash most certainly incorporate. What puzzles me is how Jon Spencer, a man who built his career on wildly fucking shit up, first with Pussy Galore and then with Blues Explosion, seems to have become the living embodiment of the type of performer he once articulately parodied. Strumming on a pointless acoustic guitar — something that Elvis was known for, so he’s staying roots true to show-biz excess — and exhibiting a persona that channeled Chris Isaak channeling Joaquin Phoenix channeling Johnny Cash, Spencer played entirely typical rock & roll hillbilly fare. Kinda boring. During one ill-fated attempt to “get real” with the audience, Spencer went on an indulgent 15-minute midsong diatribe about the importance of not being self-absorbed. Sure, it seems like they’re having fun, which is nice, and their handsomely adorned new Yep Roc release (with cover illustrations by Tony Millionaire) has one track I dig entitled “Way Out,” which translated well to live performance.

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