Heavy Trash is the first great rockabilly milestone of the 21st century. A side project between the overlooked genius Jon Spencer (of the Blues Explosion) and Matt Verta-Ray of Madder Rose, these two New York City boys have let have stepped out of the concrete jungle of NYC to let their hillbilly freak flags fly while trotting out their influences, which recognizably range from the roster of the great Sun Records all the way to the soundtrack to American Graffiti, spiked with the wiry punk sounds of the Supersuckers and Reverend Horton Heat.
Verta-Ray brandishes his Bo Diddley twang on “Dark Hair’d Rider” while torsos will be a-twisting with the fifties malt-shop jive of “Lover Street,” sounding like a blasphemous but beautiful remix of the Doors’ “Love Street” with almost similar but twisted lyrics, Spencer giving props to Velvet Jones. Verta-Ray continues to surprise us with his bag of sonic tricks by showcasing some of the bluesy, acoustic, bottleneck chops not heard since the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet on “Walking Burn” with Christine Campenella’s menthol-smooth lyrics in the background, also accompanied on “Justine Alright” with the whooping mannerisms of the late great Carl Perkins.
The giddy lyrics that are ubiquitously dispersed throughout the album take a succinct intermission on “Under the Waves,” where Spencer is moping out a cantankerous murder ballad with a spine-chilling, opera-like caterwaul sounding like a cold and windy night, making for the perfect backdrop for a meticulous crime of passion for which he sings about in an eerily vivid detail.
“The Hump” is ever so sweet with the surf-rock tinged Farfisa organ madness of the Boss Martians and the featherbrained fun of the la-la-la chorus immediately followed by the hilarious “Mr. K.I.A.” which is what Folk Implosion would sound like if they were back wood hicks, featuring Verta-Ray’s finest moment of shredding on the strings, the chunky drum beat and Spencer rambling on like a raving derelict as he threatens to demobilize his army of monkeys on all of the people who have done him wrong.
Most of the songs just make you want to get up and shake your hips till the cows come home. A perfect example would be when “Gatorade” hits your ears with the catchy chorus and the demented admiration of pissing in somebody’s mouth. Twisted, huh? “Fix These Blues” manages to be both a slow and electrifying melody with the deep-fried Southern rock groove of the Allman Brothers and whacko doo-wop is shown on “Take My Hand.”
Some of these tracks do justice to Chuck Berry, such as “Thursday is Mine” with rollicking staccato guitar and harmonica freakout, and on the flying sci-fi analog keyboards of “The Loveless,” which sees Spencer giving an ode to “eating fried potatoes and drinking gasoline.” Reminders of the Blues Explosion are even shown with “Yeah Baby,” a song full of soulful backing vocals and Spencer befittingly giving shout-outs to the band members.
Heavy Trash is, arguably so far, the second most important album in rockabilly fusion since the Cramps’ 1980 milestone Songs the Lord Taught Us. It seems like Spencer has taken out almost an alter-ego on this album, one in him that has been yearning to break free one day. One can hope that we see more honky-tonk madness from Heavy Trash in the near future. So put down that wood that you’ve been whittling, grab a jug of your preferred batch of XXX moonshine and enjoy!
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