Boss Hog - Biography
In a career spanning just over a decade, alternative rock act Boss Hog recorded three LPs, plus a mini-album and a number of EPs and singles. Led by Jon Spencer and his wife, Cristina Martinez, the band formed in New York in 1989. The group overlapped briefly with the existence of Spencer's earlier DC punk outfit, Pussy Galore, which officially disbanded in 1990. Boss Hog was initially assembled to fill a last-minute vacancy at CBGB's. Famously, Martinez performed the entire show in the nude, earning the band instant notoriety. At this time, the other members of Boss Hog consisted of guitarists Kurt Wolf (ex-Pussy Galore) and Jerry Teel, plus drummer Charlie Ondras. This incarnation of the band recorded Boss Hog's debut mini-LP, Drinkin' Lechin' & Lyin' (1989 Amphetamine Reptile). Heavy and ferocious, the album injects a dose of sleazy blues into a proto-grunge alt-rock sound, with Spencer and Martinez trading lead vocals or singing together. Reflecting the group's live aesthetic, the blue-tinted cover art features a full-frontal Martinez, wearing only black leather boots and long matching gloves.
Ondras's fellow Unsane member, bassist Pete Shore, joined Boss Hog for their debut LP, Cold Hands (1990 Amphetamine Reptile). One of the album's more aggressively hip-shaking tracks even bears Shore's name. In general, the record's tempos are slower than on the band's previous outing, and its sound is denser. The cover art is more restrained, featuring a relatively demure Martinez, whose posture conceals the explicit facets of her nudity. Though critical appraisal was scant, All Music awarded the album four out of five stars. At this point, Shore and Teel left the band, with Jens Jurgensen joining on bass for a European tour and the recording of the double-7" single, Action Box (1991Amphetamine Reptile). The four-cut release boasts lean, driving hard rock, including the sexually explicit "Black Throat." Wolf was next to leave, replaced by Railroad Jerk guitarist Marcellus Hall for the recording of "Fire of Love," a one-off single for the Smells Like Smoked Sausages (1992 Sub Pop) compilation.
The band then went on hiatus, with Spencer forming The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Following a pair of LPs from that outfit, Spencer, Martinez, and Jurgensen regrouped, adding drummer Hollis Queens. This quartet would remain stable throughout the rest of the decade, beginning their recorded output together with the 10" EP Girl (1993 Amphetamine Reptile). Helmed by Martin Bisi, it was Boss Hog's most professional-sounding recording to date. The band's arrangements are more extensively thought out, incorporating horns, cowbell, and other accoutrements. They also unleash plenty of raw, over-saturated rock 'n' roll.
The group then signed to a major label for their sophomore full-length, Boss Hog (1995 Geffen). Despite the careerist move, the band sacrificed none of their raw appeal on these recordings. If anything, the chainsaw guitars cut through with more intensity, Boss Hog's rhythm section thumps with increased authority, and Martinez has never sounded tougher. What bumps down the record a peg is actually Spencer, whose vocal contributions All Music rightly critiqued as "shtick" and an "irritating collection of blues and rockabilly affectations." Mark Boyce (ex-Goats) joined on keyboards for the subsequent tour. However, the record arrived to little fanfare, and Geffen and Boss Hog parted ways soon after.
The band went on hiatus again, while Spencer and Martinez embarked on parenthood together. Five years later, Boss Hog returned as a quintet, with Boyce now an official member. In keeping with the times, the group radically altered their sound on their third LP, Whiteout (2000 In The Red). The drums are heavily processed, while the production is spare and dry, with each instrument placed carefully in the mix, and Martinez's sultry vocals right up front. Despite this radical shift from Boss Hog's earliest recordings, their underlying emphasis on raunchy, blues-influenced alt-rock remained intact. Also in keeping with tradition, the album cover features a risqué photo of Martinez, either clad in white underwear or nude, depending on nation of release. After touring into 2001, the band again took a break from activity; this one indefinite. In late 2008, they played one gig at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey. Otherwise, Boss Hog remains in limbo.