When it comes to amalgamations of American roots music — mid-1950s rock 'n' roll, country, rockabilly, and assorted styles of blues, R&B/soul, etc. — most bands usually take one of two tacks. Some are earnest and respectful (Scott Miller & the Commonwealth, Steve Earle), while some are over-the-top irreverent (the Cramps, Billy Childish).
Heavy Trash, the duo of Jon Spencer (as in Blues Explosion) and Matt Verta-Ray try for a balance of the two — the playing and singing is heartfelt, but there's plenty (yet not too much) of nudge-wink humor, purposefully melodramatic vocals, and so much echo and fuzziness it may've well been recorded in the late Lux Interior's sub-basement. "Bedevilment" will warm the hearts of those lamenting the loss of the Cramps. "Bubble Bee," an oldie made famous by the Searchers and LaVern Baker (who wrote it), is given a careening, Yardbirds-like rave-up, and it'll likely evoke the feeling of the best Saturday-into-Sunday parties you've ever attended. Give your Barry White and Isaac Hayes discs a rest and play the loping, bluesy, oozing-from-the-swamp romp "Isolation" for someone you love (or like a lot) to set some kind of, uhh, mood.
While this album doesn't reach the same levels of wiry energy as their previous Going Way Out With ..., Midnight Soul Serenade is jolly good fun nonetheless. Who knows, perhaps this more measured approach might garner new fans. (Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum)