i was swallowed by the noise: new BOSS HOG live & on vinyl

Cristina Martinez & Jon Spencer's band BOSS HOG are back with their first album in over 15 years. peep the Brood X vinyl & my exclusive video footage of their badass Bawsston show!

Boss Hog have returned with their first full length album since the year 2000. it's called Brood X and is straight up slammin', immediate contender for best rock record of the year in my humble opinion. i just had the immense pleasure of witnessing them perform it live, they murdered the set from which i'm still basking in the glow of days later. before we get to the albums, see what i'm saying with this video i filmed up front at their recent concert at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA. the song is "Ground Control", one of the new album's freshest bangers:

so whomst be Boss Hog, you ask?

the blues-punk-rock 5-piece centered around ultimate powercouple Cristina Martinez & Jon Spencer which began back in the late 80s in NYC as Pussy Galore were winding down prior to the founding of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. i grew up listening to the JSBX at a super young age thanks to my guitar teacher who blessed me with a copy of their classic 1994 album Orange around when it dropped - he was probably getting bored with all the alt-rock/post-hardcore favorites of mine i kept having him teach me that were all the same power-chords, so he laced me with the Orange CD and very successfully opened my young mind to a whole different experimental realm i had not yet explored. if you were wondering, i no longer know how to play guitar because i later cut the end of my finger off in the cutterheads of the jointer in high school wood shop class while simultaneously becoming so obsessed with hip hop that it became almost the only genre i listened to for years, so i stopped playing my Ibanez... but that's a whole 'nother story. though i pretty much stayed rocking the Blues Explosion ever since i was put onto them back then, i never got around to peeping Jon Spencer's other groups until the past 5 years or so during which i've gone back heavy into the punk & rock realm. my Sonic Youth obsession led me to their homies, the Jon's first group, eighties NYC noise-rock-anarchists Pussy Galore, which featured Spencer's eventual wife Martinez as a member for a point, back when she was still a teenager. Boss Hog seem to be the lesser known of the Spencer groups, and it's harder to find most of their records - while i have the majority of the JSBX & Pussy Galore LPs & EPs, which i'll post up on here later, i still have work to do tracking down the older Boss Hog releases! we're just going to focus on that new new anyway...

the Brood Star EP & Brood X LP, both out now on In The Red Records:

i had no idea Boss Hog were active again when i fortuitously stumbled on their freshly released, rejuvenated reunion EP, Brood Star, while diggin' in the crates at one of Boston's local record stores a few months back, and was blown away by how dope it is. though it's their first record in 16 years, there is nothing dated or dusty sounding in the 4 tracks, featuring the stompers 'Wichita Grey' & 'Disgrace' plus the more experimental 'Devious Motherfucker' & 'Nymph Beat'. its vinyl was cut at 45rpm and is loud as fuck, by the way! then a few weeks ago, the Brood X full length LP dropped, taking it to another level; it's a concise ten-track front-to-back beast of a record, packed with nothing but heat. while Boss Hog are in that punky bluesy rock'n'roll realm JSBX also inhabits, they sound very different, with the vocals mainly by Cristina Martinez who is the ultimate badass frontwoman, leaving Jon Spencer to secondary vox while focusing on guitar, flanked by Hollis Queens (drums), Jens Jurgensen (bass/guitar) & Mickey Finn (keys). the whole band is super tight as a unit, with Hollis Queens' drums being a standout feature - i feel like you could make a killer break record out of her work here, adding more of a funky, hip hoppy feel to their sound, plus she held it the fuck down at the show, singing while rocking the ill drumbeat simultaneously, respect! other tracks i'm feeling especially on Brood X include 'Black Eyes', 'Shh Shh Shh' & 'Rodeo Chica', though there are no songs i would skip, it's all dope. however, one track stands out from the rest, with a special, different type of sound & power, and that is most definitely the haunting concluding track, '17', in which Martinez channels the thoughts & emotions of her younger self, blending into the shadows of the eighties NYC noise punk world:

"I was swallowed by the noise."

'17' sends shivers up my spine on the vinyl, so i was really hoping they would play it live, and sure enough it came as the 2nd of 3(!) encore tracks with the crazy ill arrangement you see in the video above. at first i was bothered that Cristina is obscured by the shadows for most of the video, but then realized it went so perfect with the lyrics and theme of the song... swallowed by the noise. 

Boss Hog floored the crowd, slaying their set with a non-stop barrage of heater after heater; if you ever have the chance to see them, don't miss out! in the slideshow above are a few still shots i snapped, and the cherry on top was groupie-ganging up on Cristina & Jon after the set - they were super cool and took that final pic with my friends and i, completely making the night. cop their new records & if you dig the videos, share 'em with yr friends! stay boss

Hanni El Khatib: From the Guns Out to Savage Times

HEK's newest offering Savage Times is his best yet, and cause to celebrate all he's done so far.

if you aren't familiar with Hanni El Khatib yet, it's time for us to remedy that! i was lucky enough to stumble onto his music in 2011 or 2012 when he debuted on Innovative Leisure Records with the instant classic Will The Guns Come Out. Innovative Leisure was started at least in part by a guy from Stones Throw who was their sales rep when i worked for UGHH.com, before he broke off to start IL, so we were hipped to the label early. i think i first got into Nick Waterhouse heavy & then quickly became obsessed with HEK's music. WTGCO, his 2011 debut LP on was a rough crystal ball for where his music would lead us; he came with a punky but funky & soulful mix of old school rock'n'roll & rhythm'n'blues which had that timeless, throwback type appeal while feeling of-now at the same time, not on some cheesy contrived retro kick. he made immediate noise with his bangin' cover of the Funkadelic jam "I've Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody's Got a Thing" from their 1970 debut (shortened to "I Got a Thing"). however among all the great tracks of a pretty wide range offered, "Dead Wrong" probably hit me the hardest:

while he self-produced the debut LP, for 2013's sophomore follow-up Head In The Dirt HEK enlisted Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys on production plus co-writing & playing on the album. it was another super solid release, but perhaps as expected took on much of Auerbach's & TBK's sound through the collaboration; it was a cleaner, more streamlined & concise stomper of an album that was totally great but lacked perhaps only in how Auerbach's influence might've overpowered some of El Khatib's wider creative range exhibited previously on WTGCO. that being said it's still top shelf in my book, 'Nobody Move' is probably my favorite on there. while the debut had better individual stand-alone tracks, as an album it might be said HITD flowed better front to back. then in 2015 he returned with his third full-length, the self-produced Moonlight, which successfully took his music to the next level, integrating what he learned working with Auerbach while harnessing and amplifying the qualities unique to his style & personality which made the debut so memorable. Moonlight is probably the most low-key or least punky of the first 3 records but perhaps the best taken as an album, reaching new heights with hard-hitting songs of a higher quality like "Two Brothers" & "Mexico" ending each side. however at this point the debut WTGCO still boasted my favorite HEK individual tracks that felt the most 'him', but all 3 taken together easily made him one of the best contemporary rockers out there in my book. peep the slideshow below with pics from my personal collecsch of the 3 aforementioned LPs plus the "Innov8" 8" record (!) he did covering The Cramps plus the 7" picture disc covering D'Angelo - both obviously bangin! also keep in mind when viewing that not only is he a genius singer/songwriter/musician, he's also co-owner of Innovative Leisure & the Art Director, so that's all him...

he was already at the top of his class, but then Savage Times dropped... and Hanni El Khatib reached a whole 'nother echelon. it's immediately one of this year's best albums, but that's selling it short. check it out:

Savage Times Vol. 1-5 can be seen as either a compilation of 5 movements or just taken as an album all combined. regardless, it's the best music Hanni El Khatib has created yet & if you are a true lover of music, odds are you'll deeply appreciate it. he released it incrementally in 3 song editions beginning in April 2016, with this beautiful triple 10" vinyl box set which includes all 5 editions, plus 4 bonus tracks (which are totally quality, not at all throwaways) packaged in this hardbound book case with download code included, peep the slideshow below - priced at $40, it's beyond worth-it! i had pictured the set being released as 7"s, glad they chose the 10" format, it's perfect for this release, you can rock it as 3 mini albums or all in one, more epic session.

but sexy physical edition aside, Savage Times is an absolutely vital album to add to your musical collection, regardless of how you experience it. since they were all released in these 5, 3-song spurts, there's a healthy variation between each trio of tracks; in fact there's quite a wide range stylistically, yet it all fits into a greater picture or aesthetic cohesively. HEK is in top form, experimenting with new instruments and sounds, weaving rock'n'roll, punk, soul, funk, R&B, the blues, garage rock, disco-y type breaks, even hip hop vibes (it was rumored a while back he was doing a whole album with Freddie Gibbs - fingers crossed on that one) plus much more and he somehow does it completely naturally, with everything flowing together perfectly.

Hanni El Khatib has reached master level with this release in my eyes (or more importantly, ears) because he inhabits such a wide range stylistically but also with his songwriting skills; he can come with these deviously dark & deep lyrics that don't drag the song down because the music is hella soulful - take for example "Die Alone" where he sweetly sings "i'm gonna die alone, really alone, i'm gonna die alone" over & over a tambourine-janglin' upbeat rocker of a track that doesn't feel depressing at all. he comes harder than ever before on the following track, "Born Brown" one of his most powerful songs yet in which he expresses rage, frustration & pride in the passionately screamed lyrics reflecting on his experience as a first generation American in these fuct, well yep actually Savage Times. a son of Palestinian & Filipino immigrants, born & raised in California, his perspective is definitely unique. then with the next cut he seamlessly transitions into a 70s style funk soul rocker perfect for the dance floor, but that delicious duality returns with the lyrics - he repeatedly croons "i'm paralyzed, immobilized" over a pleasant bed of "oo-wah-oos" from the background singers - hella feelgood while being kinda emo as fuck - i love it. no matter what he does, it feels genuine & heartfelt, perhaps best heard in the next track, "Miracle", a stripped down blues solo with just vocals & guitar, a man looking back in disbelief, hesitantly accepting his redemption: "ooh it's a miracle that i came out, came out alive/ oh i should've been put down in my place, but i survived." plus opening cut "Baby's OK" is one of the most badass intro tracks i've heard in a grip - Khatib in pure Stoogey glory screaming "i was high as fuck i was high as fuck i was high as fuck... but hear me out. didn't know who i was, didn't know who i was, didn't know who i was, i was acting out. she couldn't look me in the eyes she couldn't look me in the eyes... i understood. i'm a faliure, i'm a lie i'ma failure but i try". i fucking love the sentiment, but dear Hanni El Khatib, if you ever happen to see this: if this failing, the rest of us are fuct! this is one of the year's greatest successes actually, and i thank you deeply for the inspiration. freak freely if you really a freak.