Review Summary: Appealing and worthy indie-pop marred by a little too much repetition.
Love can do funny things to people. Like make the leader of an abrasive indie-noise band feel like starting a side project hinged around radio-friendly, chorus laden pop. Enter Boss Hog, the band Jon Spencer – of Blues Explosion fame – formed with wife Cristina Martinez and a revolving cast of trustworthy musicians. Formed in the late 80’s, the group released three albums, each separated by exactly five years, and with 2000’s Whiteout
as their latest representative.
was the album that granted Boss Hog a larger exposure, allowing them to get some radio airplay and tour quite extensively. Most of this was on account of the singles, all of them perfect pop-rock songs which perfectly mixed radio-friendliness with indie integrity; however, the album as a whole is not to be dismissed, either, presenting an overall strong set of songs flawed by a few minor problems.
For this album, Spencer and Martinez welcomed keyboardist Mark Boyce into the fold, which already comprised Hollis Queens on the beatbox and Jens Jurgensen on bass guitar. Boyce’s keyboard input – mostly produced via Farfisa organ – had a strong part in molding the group’s sound, which on this album consists of a particularly funky strand of electronic indie-pop, sometimes invaded by distorted, Explosionesque guitars. The songs on Whiteout
all revolve around electronic drumbeats (ranging from jungle/trance to industrial), retro-happy keyboard passages and the sweet, yet attitude-driven vocals of Cristina Martinez. The songwriting, while indie enough to not shock the fans, also makes a conscious effort to include catchy, instantly appealing choruses, a task in which it mostly succeeds; however, the exceedingly similar structure and sound of each song inevitably lead to a feeling of repetition, which is particularly present in the last few songs.
In fact, the album is at its strongest during the first half. The first seven songs hold very few uninteresting moments, and it is in this section that three-quarters of the standout tracks can be located. Opener Whiteout
already asserts itself as one of them, serving as a nice introduction to the album’s sound while concocting the first of many memorable choruses. However, the formula only gets better on the two best songs on the album, which can be found back-to-back. Fear For You
is a more staccato track, with great vocal work from Martinez, while Get It While You Wait
is the perfect indie-pop single, with a riff that just begs for airplay and an instantly sticky chorus. The remainder of the songs in the first half, while not attaining the level of the standouts, are nevertheless interesting enough to keep the listener’s interest and make up for the sole slightly uninspired moment in Chocolate
Unfortunately, after Jaguar
, things get slightly less interesting and much more repetitive. The final few tracks of the album suffer from excessive rehashing of the group’s formula, and not enough of the choruses which made the rest of the album so appealing. This is particularly true of the tracks where a male vocalist – presumably Spencer himself – duets with Martinez; while bringing the overall sound closer to Explosion territory, these songs also lack the appeal that the best moments of this album can muster. Still, not all is lost, as the album picks up in time for a grand finale, with the mildly interesting Trouble
and the short, sweet Monkey
, one minute and fifty seconds of distorted guitars, processed vocals and a deliciously goofy chorus (”you’re just a monkey in a magazine”
). Overall, however, tracks like Itchy and Scratchy
ultimately harm the album as a whole, constituting the main misstep of Boss Hog’s third album.
Still, even with these minor flaws, there is much for an indie lover to appreciate. From Martinez’s sultry figure on the artwork to her equally sultry vocals (try not to feel a chill when she recites ”I have a package for you”
) and the appealing, if often simplistic, choruses, Boss Hog’s third release is well worth a look by Spencer fans and those who like their pop alternative enough not to embarrass.
Fear For You
Get It While You Wait