Get local news delivered straight to your phone

Support City Paper!

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

When Calvin Johnson performs, you can’t take your eyes off him. Forget the froggy-groggy voice, the sweaty Elmer Fudd pout, and the steely glare. The most deliciously off-putting thing about Johnson is the way he exploits the stage space. Backed by the Dub Narcotic Sound System on his last run through D.C., Johnson swung between Morrissey and the Supremes in twitchy, tacky flashes. Johnson’s first compilation to be recorded at his aptly named house studio Dub Narcotic is inspired by house bands of studio systems such as Stax, Sun, and Lee Perry’s Black Ark. Johnson’s laboratory hasn’t produced a signature sound so much as a central figure: Johnson himself. From the stage to the studio, he’s all over the record. Johnson plays on five of the 23 tracks, receives shout-outs from a number of the indie intelligentsia on hand, including the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and produces all the tunes. He fertilizes Nikki McClure’s a cappella ode to dragonfly mating rituals on “Procreate,” serves as a melody anchor in “Ambulance Driver Blues” by Amelia Peter Scott + Calvin, and works as ringmaster on Dub Narcotic’s own “Selector” funk trilogy. Johnson’s gusto for the diverse material—be it the loose hiphop, lo-fi folk, or fuzzy-purple-organ-tweaked dub—renders this collection thoroughly listenable. I’ve always thought Johnson makes some of the best morning music, because it’s pop based on sheer enthusiasm. What better alarm clock than torso-twisting white-boy dub?—Jason Cherkis