This loosely configured hipster conglomerate began as a conceptual exercise in art-rock carnality (talk about an oxymoron!) and surreptitiously developed into a legit, earthy dirt-blues band. It’d be hard to anticipate that sort of validity from the smirky debut, which does come swathed in one of the most eye-catching covers — a full-frontal nude photo of the band’s frontwoman, Cristina Martinez — to cross the threshold in modern times. The disc’s innards, heavily skewed toward the kind of deconstructionist garage-rock proffered by Pussy Galore (a band led by Martinez’s husband and Boss Hog bandmate Jon Spencer), don’t match up.
Cold Hands, (un)dressed in another impressive Cristina-as-art statement on the front, is a bit more lucid, but its reliance on in-joke-songs are named in tribute to such band pals as “Gerard” (Cosloy, a writer turned record executive) and “Pete Shore” (the Unsane bassist who guests here) — and calculatedly rakish rhythmic stratagems make it the aural equivalent of a vanity press book. In terms of pure hedonism, it’d be hard to top Action Box (the non-cheesecake cover aside). Over the course of four songs, Martinez casts the sex act as both demolition derby (“Bunny Fly”) and down-at-the-crossroads soul-swap (“Big Fish,” wherein she and Spencer engage in a sexy crawlin’-blues duet). Girl+ spends the bulk of its time in similarly dusky territory, from the muted-trumpet strut of “Ruby” to the ominously whispered terrorfest “Some Sara.” The consolidation of a tenable lineup helps matters dramatically: of particular note is the bracingly erotic bass playing by Jens Jurgensen, also the post-scum scene’s most noted filmmaker.
After a long absence from recording, Boss Hog (a quartet with the pseudonymous Hollis Queens on drums) returned to action none the worse for wear on its major label bow. In the interim, both Spencer and Martinez discovered that it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing — and songs like “What the Fuck” and “Green Shirt” (definitely not an Elvis Costello cover) have got it in spades. A full pelvic workout.