In The Red
By: Eric G.
You really can judge an album by its cover (to mangle a cliche). Well, Boss Hog albums, anyway. The band's major label debut (five years ago) featured a semi-goth cartoon on the cover that was like a cross between the Umbrellas Of Cherbourg soundtrack and an Alien Sex Fiend album; it sounded stale compared even to the wink wink nudge nudge irony of the band's early Amphetamine Reptile output. Those early Boss Hog records typically opted for the infinitely more marketable shot of vocalist Christina Martinez naked. On Whiteout the band returns to its roots (sort of) with a semi-nude shot of Christina, but it's far from the turn-on you'd expect. Martinez looks like a corpse with straw hair and pasty white skin. I couldn't put it out of sight fast enough.
The music is just as un-sexy and boring as the cover art. It's not hard to imagine why Geffen thought better of keeping this band on the roster. Boss Hog has always sounded like a watered down version of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, which, in turn, has always sounded like a watered down version of the truly raunchy rock it so clearly mimics. You get the feeling Spencer runs the show here even though he stands in the background and lets his wife be the showpiece. The frustration of not being able to shout out 'Blues Explosion!' in between every riff must well up inside him, giving him enough energy and inspiration to crank out the next Blues Explosion album.
I'm not sure if Whiteout is a pun, but this album couldn't be less funky or raucous than if it had five of the whitest people you've ever seen playing on it. Wait a minute. (Looking back at the cover) it does in fact have five of the whitest people I've ever seen playing on it. How could former members of Pussy Galore end up sounding like second generation Garbage (the band not the refuse)? I don't know if my musical ear is just more in tune now than it was in college when I actually didn't mind Boss Hog, or if this is as wretched as it seems.
On the plus side, Martinez can sing better now than when she chose to grunt her way painfully through songs, but the songs just aren't worth the trouble. The cringe factor surfaces way too often, especially when Spencer does manage to squeeze in some of his 'patented' interjections: 'come on', 'get down.' The production is very cold and forcibly electronic. The grungy riffs are sparse and not very memorable. Occasionally, as on "Monkey" the band will hit a groove that seems to rock compared to the other songs on the album, but that's hardly a feat given cold detachment of the playing throughout. Whiteout is the sound of a band in dire need of some drugs, some perverted sex, or a kick in the face- just something to make it sound alive.