(In the Red Records)
Mr. and Mrs. Jon Spencer turn in their pop sellout to Geffen, only to find the label merged and their band dropped. So much for getting the corporation to subsidize the transition out of the cult's comfy basement into the family room. But what would Mom and Pop have made of Whiteout anyway? Probably not much, aside from the would-be single "Stereolight," which rolls out the snap-crackle-damn only to slow it all down just when the getting gets good. Most likely this disc, like the band's last (1995's self-titled platter, otherwise known as "Ike and Tina's Dynamite for really white folks"), would have slipped through the cracks and landed in the Nice Price bin faster than a Journey best-of. Turns out that no matter how slick you make your shit, it still sounds like, well, shit.
Spencer's oft-repeated shtick consists of greasy rock masquerading as suh-leeeeezy blooze, drenched in enough sex-sweat to wash away the novelty-act artifice. That Spencer couldn't understand his detractors' objections -- something about a white man in blackface -- only made his capital-F "art" more admirable. You could hear, buried deep within the corpulent grooves, a man struggling to reconcile his fantasies (he wants to be like Ike) with his fetishes, then shoving them all so far up his critics' bums, they'd be won over by sheer force of will. And it kind of worked, especially on his side project with wife Cristina Martinez. Boss Hog has always been where Spencer goes when he's looking for a little nasty fun. He lightens up, writes songs, then gets down and dirty -- dirty, meaning you throw on Boss Hog when drunkenness turns to love.
And there are moments on Whiteout when the funk-me baby comes out to play: "Chocolate," with Martinez moaning in the distant background about how her baby's the man, while Spencer's up front screaming about "kissin' and huggin' and motherfuckin'"; "Jaguar," which blurs the line between techno and trash-can, and the tossed-off thrash-and-bash of "Monkey." But the thrilling edges of 1995 have been worn down, polished to a bar-coded nub. Martinez feels like a bit player now. Spencer turns his shit up, and the blues explode all over the place as usual. But this time around, it's a rather clean mess -- which is what happens, perhaps, when you get the Cardigans' producer to do your dirty work. -- Robert Wilonsky