Jon Spencer’s Heavy Trash is recycled rockabilly

Jon Dieringer

Jon Spencer (left) and Matt Verta-Ray make up the blues/rockabilly side project Heavy Trash

Credit: Beth Rankin

Heavy Trash is a side-project of Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray who both play in bands that do modern, stripped down and hard-rocking interpretations of blues (one is The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the other is Speedball Baby — you can try to figure out who is in which). Naturally, there are certain expectations of what it should sound like, and what’s surprising is how they are at once both so well met and defied.

Heavy Trash leans less toward the blues and heavily in a rockabilly direction, but the men’s trademark tongue-in-cheek way of playing remains familiar. It’s quite similar to the Eagles of Death Metal but with less Mick Jagger and more Johnny Burnette.

And at that, the album is a success. Most tracks move along at a brisk pace with familiar rockabilly chord progressions and playing styles with Spencer’s Lux Interior-lite delivery.

In fact, that describes every single track but the three that are the album’s best: “Under the Waves,” which is sort of a mix of “House of the Rising Sun” and the song in those Ponderosa commercials; “Fix These Blues,” a slower mid-tempo number that is surprisingly sincere sounding, and “Take My Hand,” a Johnny Ray-style weepy, white soul song.

But overall, it’s all been done before — and better. As an honest take on rockabilly, it is no way a substitute for the real thing, and as a psychotic, punk rock update of it, there’s no reason why anyone wouldn’t want to listen to early Cramps records instead.

Overall, it’s just a fun time while it lasts, but, like a night with Johnny Walker Black, entirely forgettable.

Contact Pop Arts reporter Jon Dieringer at [email protected].