Amsterdam Throwdown King Street Showdown! unites three of the most distinctive talents in ‘80s and ‘90s indie rock: Solex’s Elisabeth Esselink, Jon Spencer, and Cristina Martinez. Esselink’s previous album, In the Fishtank Vol. 13, was released five years prior to this set; when her Amsterdam record shop closed, she had more time for making music. After the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Spencer kept busy with Heavy Trash and a Boss Hog reunion with Martinez. Though Esselink and Spencer and Martinez’ sounds are very different on the surface, they actually have quite a bit in common: they all have a fondness for deconstructing and reconstructing pop culture in their own fashions, and Esselink and Spencer are both Matador alumni. However, Amsterdam Throwdown King Street Showdown! feels like a long-lost album that should have appeared on Grand Royal -- it’s got the sample-friendly, postmodern pastiche of funk, hip-hop, rock, and pop that bands like Butter 08 perfected in the mid- to late ‘90s and early 2000s. These songs feel more instantly familiar than dated, though, and it’s almost as comforting as it is entertaining to hear the album open with a bass groove on “Bon Bon” and Spencer howl like Wolfman Jack on “Fire Fire.” Spencer and Martinez sound as off-handedly sexy as ever on “Don’t Hold Back” and “Dirty,” while Esselink takes things in a more eclectic direction on “Too Much Too Fast” and “The Uppercut.” Though samples abound, the album also has lots of live instrumentation, with the core trio joined by six other musicians, including Heavy Trash’s Matt Verta-Ray and Mike Ladd, who add more hip-hop flavor to “Action” and “R Is for Ring-a-Ding.” So many voices could mean an unfocused batch of songs, but that’s not the case on Amsterdam Throwdown King Street Showdown! -- if anything, the opposite is true: toward the album’s end, some songs tend to blur together. Even then, Esselink, Spencer, Martinez, and crew sound like they’re having so much fun that it can’t help but be contagious.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares