Review ·

The name Heavy Trash evokes memories of bulk-garbage pick-up day in my old neighborhood, when the garbage men would haul away old stoves, busted couches, rusted yard tools. Jon Spencer (yes, that Jon Spencer) and Matt Verta-Ray (of rockabilly punk act Speedball Baby), the two men who make up Heavy Trash, are not garbage men (though you never know, times are rough). But they do take a bulk-garbage approach to their music: throw rockabilly�s rusted-out corpse right on top of a pile of stinking punk refuse, then pile a few discarded shards of R&B on top of that. The result is a Frankenstein�s monster of genre detritus. When it works, it�s a nice bit of musical alchemy. When it doesn�t, well, it is garbage, after all.


Heavy Trash will likely garner attention because of the involvement of Spencer, who needs no introduction to anyone who�s followed independent music over the last two decades. From the calculated nihilism of Pussy Galore to the inexplicably still-active Blues Explosion (the indie-rock equivalent of Willie Mays in 1973, still hobbling out to the playing field years after the glory days), Spencer�s been one of rock�s prime practitioners of deconstructed, stripped-down garage-rock chaos. Hence, his pairing here with Verta-Ray makes sense. The two are rooted in rock�s minimalist history and possess the chops to make even the most routine genre exercises sound at least passably good.

And unfortunately, that�s what much of Heavy Trash�s debut record is: passably good, lacking enough originality to overcome sounding like a Southern-fried bar band pounding out Sun-era Johnny Cash and Elvis covers. �Dark Haired Rider� and �Justine Alright� are prime examples, full of bombastic guitar swagger and curled-lip vocalizations but lacking the anachronistic sensibilities that have made the best of Spencer�s and Verta-Ray�s previous musical output so appealing.

The album has a few bright spots, especially in its latter half. �Gatorade,� used here as a euphemism for women�s genitalia, overcomes its puerile premise solely on the libidinous conviction that Spencer brings to the lyrics (�Tastes so good, I�m amazed,� goes one of the tamer lines). The boys slow things down with back-to-back ballads, �Fix These Blues� and �Take My Hand.� The former a mournful lament sung convincingly by Verta-Ray, the latter a late-�50s slow-dance tune filtered through an extra layer of distortion and sexual desperation.

The highlight, however, is its most anomalous song, �Mr. K.I.A.� Here, the duo adds a pounding, heavy beat, electronic squall, and nonsensical lyrics to a simple guitar melody, creating a chain-gang song for the future (one in which the guards are laser-equipped robots, perhaps). This is where Heavy Trash best achieves its goal of creating twenty-first-century hillbilly-twang. If Spencer and Verta-Ray collaborate again, they should not hesitate to travel down similar musical roads.

Ultimately, this record is a mixed bag. It constantly retreads over tired musical ground, and as a result probably won�t result in many new fans for either Spencer or Verta-Ray. But it�s certainly more than an inconsequential side project. Scavenge through this record like a bargain hunter on bulk pick-up night and you�re bound to find a few treasures amidst the debris.

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"Justine Alright" mp3

Heavy Trash on

Yep Roc Records

  • Dark Hair'd Rider
  • Lover Street
  • The Loveless
  • Walking Bum
  • Justine Alright
  • Under The Waves
  • The Hump
  • Mr. K.I.A.
  • Gatorade
  • This Day Is Mine
  • Fix These Blues
  • Take My Hand
  • Yeah Baby
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