Jon Spencer has been making records with his various projects since 1985, and most anyone familiar with his body of work would say that 2018's Spencer Sings the Hits sure sounds like a Jon Spencer album. The only thing curious about that would be that this marks the first time Spencer has released a solo project. Spencer has always displayed a strong personal style, whether in the noise rock assault of Pussy Galore, the hard wailing of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the lascivious R&B stomp of Boss Hog, or the roots-conscious swagger of Heavy Trash. But if you were expecting that something new would be revealed with Spencer as the uncontested leader, free to bend his talents into any direction he chose, well, that's really not what you get here. More than anything, Spencer Sings the Hits suggests the Blues Explosion without the same degree of fire and gravity, and with a little bit of noisy clatter and keyboard blurt added for seasoning. The high-attitude strut of Spencer's vocals is as loud and proud as ever, and the minimalist snarl of his guitar work is similarly confident. But where Judah Bauer and Russell Simins pushed Spencer forward, giving as good as he gave out, percussionist M. Sord and keyboardist Sam Coomes follow the star rather than walking in formation with him, and it makes a difference. This never rocks as hard as Spencer's best music, and while the songs still cut a solid groove and boast some suitably greasy melodic hooks, the finished product sounds like he's moved from heavyweight status down to welterweight. And perhaps that's just what Spencer had in mind; Spencer Sings the Hits is still full of style and high spirits, and the songs "Fake" and "Beetle Boots" show he has no time for various backbiters and syndicators. But it's hard not to feel that if he really didn't want to encourage comparisons to his previous work, he might have made an album that doesn't follow the Blues Explosion's template so clearly. If you dig Jon Spencer, you'll have a good time with Spencer Sings the Hits. But probably not as great a time as you had with him before. ~ Mark Deming

  • Format: Vinyl
  • Genre: Pop