Jon Spencer in 2014 Credit: Thomas Hawk via flickr

I remember a time in the 90s when certain critics just didn’t believe that Jon Spencer’s impassioned retro-rock stage presence wasn’t some sort of ridiculous gimmick. Though some derided his band the Blues Explosion as a second-rate mimic of Canned Heat fronted by a white guy with Mr. Dynamite-era James Brown aspirations, for others his combination of dirty swagger and bluesman showmanship was a revelation. If you weren’t on board for Spencer during this era, it’s probably because you didn’t appreciate (or didn’t know about) the crazy damaged garage rock of Spencer’s previous band, Pussy Galore—which walked the line between audacious and disastrous, notably on a skull-rattling 1986 reimagining of the entirety of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. With his latest band, Jon Spencer & the Hitmakers, Spencer returns to those art-punk roots with some of his best and most experimental bandmates from over the years. The lineup includes bassist Sam Coomes of Quasi and drummer M. Sord, who backed Spencer on the fuzzed-out 2018 solo release Spencer Sings the Hits (In the Red), as well as longtime avant-rock hero Bob Bert, who drummed with Spencer in Pussy Galore after two stints with Sonic Youth. Using claw hammers for drumsticks, Bert transforms assorted detritus (a gas tank, a garbage can) into instruments that push the otherwise solidly gritty Hitmakers sound into outre territory. Newly reunited glammy Detroit trio Demolition Doll Rods, who have been working on a new album, open with a set of unbridled sex-freak rock.   v