Embracing the Far-Out
Jon Spencer & the HITmakers is a newly formed band led by seasoned musician Jon Spencer. Spencer has been creating music for around three decades, and had a very notable career in his previous band: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. In that band, he fashioned bluesy-rock songs such as the track “Bellbottoms,” which was famously featured in the movie Baby Driver (2017).
Spencer’s sound has changed drastically since his previous band’s debut album A Reverse Willie Horton, released in 1991. What started out as dirty guitar riffs and Elvis-style vocals, has turned into more of a jumbled electro art-rock collage with his new group’s latest release Spencer Gets It Lit.
The first song “Junk Man” is a lot. The production style feels very maximalist, and the added sound effects are very overwhelming and a bit unnecessary. The clean electric instrumentation clashes with the gritty vocals and harsh-sounding guitar. The screams that are edited in kick the album off to a jarring start.
There is some hope in the second song “Get It Right Now,” which includes a stronger chorus and more of a driving beat than the previous track. Although the references to “Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Zuckerberg” felt out of place, the energy of the song was admirable. The album continues with similar-sounding tracks, with occasional spoken-word narrations by Spencer.
“Primary Baby” is similar to “Get It Right Now” in the fact that it has a fairly strong chorus, but the mixing of the sound and the lyricism is too distracting, to the point where it was difficult to enjoy the song. In the majority of the tracks on the album, the lyrics feel meaningless and confusing. With no sort of thematic concept in the album, the choices cannot be analyzed too closely because it feels like it was done without any rhyme or reason.
The album obviously draws inspiration from blues and old-school rock and roll, but there are also parallels to the mid-2000s electro-rock moment. Many moments in the album felt reminiscent of Late of the Pier’s 2008 iconic album Fantasy Black Channel.
Although many songs on this album were very rough around the edges, the album does end on a better note. “Germ Vs. Jerk” is a high point on the record, and the final song “The Devil’s Ice Age” is more or less enjoyable and is one of the most well-rounded tracks.
All in all, this album feels very unfocused and misdirected. It is hard to discern what the intention of the album is, or if the band had any goal at all. Most of the stylistic elements felt odd, and the production choices were questionable. The instrumentation does not feel fresh or interesting, in fact, it feels very out of place in 2022. Albeit, there were a few moments on the record that shows how even after all this time Spencer can bring something new to the table.