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The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – [Album]

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Monday, 17 September 2012

After the 2010 reissue campaign which saw The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion re-examining, re-configuring, re-imagining and re-structuring staple catalog titles including Orange, Acme, Now I Got Worry and Extra Width, fans' hunger for the soul-flaying sound of Jon Spencer, Russell Simins and Judah Bauer was whetted, but not satiated. They wanted more, and no amount of looking back would do; so after a series of globe-trotting tour dates which knocked audience's socks off and set their minds on fire, JSBX began work on new music. Fans were excited, but also curious what angle the new music would take; after Orange saw the band get stringy and groovy and Acme saw them get electronic, the band had already learned (the hard way) that taking whatever they made on the road could be daunting if done just the wrong way. That lesson already long learned, after an eight-year absence from recording, the Blues Explosion has come back with a record which gives listeners the band's core essence; that sound deep down beneath all the gimmicks – their Meat And Bone.

From the moment “Black Mold” slices through the air and opens the record with some synapse-searing guitar tones, listeners will have an idea of what they're in for: a lean and mean assault which – like Extra Width and Plastic Fang before it – relies on nothing but two guitars and a drum kit to call out the magic. Here, JSBX begins on the ground level of their sound again (albeit with the benefit of experience and lessons learned now) to prove they still have the touch. Here, Simins taps and detroys his drum kit with beautiful ferocity; if anyone ever said drumming was the real sweet science and not boxing, it's because they saw how Russell Simins plays. Here, Judah Bauer channels the rock, blues, soul and punk gods with his Telecaster all at the same time. Here, Jon Spencer spits, savages and serenades listeners with the charming howl he has sweet-talked them with for twenty-one years; all of the elements which have been the magic of the Blues Explosion are here, and together they power through as if they'd never left and there's no question that long-time fans will be heaving pregnant sighs of satisfaction. There is no overstatement in that – you're damned right it's that good.

The good times keep rolling on too. Throughout all twelve songs which comprise Meat And Bone (but especially on “Bag Of Bones,” “Get Your Pants Off,” “Strange Baby” and “Bear Trap”), JSBX rock as though they haven't been away for eight years. Not only that, but they've actually improved over the time away; here, eleven out of twelve tracks benefit greatly from a more noticeable observation of pop song structure (Verses! Choruses! A bridge here and there! In a sequence it's possible to follow instead of simply hammering licks and motifs into dust!), and listeners will finally have the chance to follow – rather than just absorb – them. On top of that, Spencer's time with Matt Verta-Ray (and – let's face it – a few years of age) have helped to focus the singer into giving up some intelligible vocal performances which move rather than just howl-and-disintegrate. Spencer's introduction of dynamic in addition to structure proves to be the ace in the hole which will really help to win listeners here; it's not quite as accessible as pop, but it's certainly easy enough to follow the singer along as he pulls himself up by his bootstraps and shows fans that he can still deliver.

As “Zimgar” just sort of lets Meat And Bone spin its wheels impotently before falling flat out of exhaustion to close the record, fans who waited for The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to do something which did their reputation as gods among soulless scenesters justice (let's be honest, they haven't put out an awesome new release since 2002) will know that they finally got what they were waiting for, and it was worth every minute of the wait. After an absence so long, it's totally understandable if fans had wondered whether or not JSBX could pull it off, but Meat And Bone gives them more than they could have imagined. If The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is still able to sustain work of Meat And Bone's quality, everybody will be asking for second, guanranteed.

Artist:

www.thejonspencerbluesexplosion.com/
www.myspace.com/jsbluesexplosion
www.facebook.com/thejonspencerbluesexplosion
www.twitter.com/JSBX_1

Download:
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion –
Meat And Bone – “Black Mold” – [mp3]

Further Reading:
Ground Control Magazine – Jon Spencer Blues Explosion [Discography Part One]  
Ground Control Magazine – Jon Spencer Blues Explosion [Discography Part Two]  

Album:

Meat And Bone
will be released by Mom + Pop/Universal on September 18, 2012. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – [Album]

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Sunday, 07 March 2010

Historically in every musical movement, purists have always shrieked heresy as soon as someone starts tweaking convention. When that thing which bucks tradition starts fucking shit up, it isn't always done with malicious intent; the band (or bands) in question may have the utmost respect for the basic forms they're working with and the shoulders they're standing on, but it still gets people going. That sort of scenario instantly leaps to mind when one thinks about The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion because the verdict among fans, supporters and detractors is still out on what they did and how it fits into the history of new music; twenty-two reasons why people remain undecided line up to be counted on the retrospective compilation Dirty Shirt Rock 'N' Roll: The First Ten Years.

On first appraisal now – as was the case almost twenty years ago when they first started making noise in NYC – the first response from new listeners to JSBX is one of absolute shock. Trying to find the 'blues' in the music takes a minute because a thick layer of punk and 'indie rawk' guaranteed to jar listeners (it always has) rests on top of it and could be taken as a sarcastic dig at purists as a result.

Dig a little deeper into the mire though, and the proceedings become a slippery thing of beauty for the right set of ears and ideals.

The greatest joke that JSBX pulled on its audience was that they used both the blues and rock n' roll as a skeleton key to traverse musical styles and ideas with impunity; they created a sort of blues explosion where they'd begin at some point and emerge out of that explosion into some blues form (but they didn't feel bound down to it) and, periodically, they'd shift and go into some other direction – but one of the things they'd always try to demonstrate is 4/4 time and how versatile it could be. The band's open form always left all of pop up for grabs and that's really what Dirty Shirt Rock 'N' Roll demonstrates; standing back from the explosion with a few years safe distance, it becomes apparent in listening to these songs that the band did go anywhere they wanted and try anything they wanted. The reason they managed to never lose themselves was because the only trappings that were changing were the extensions of the time signature and, because virtually all of pop is in 4/4 time, the only limitations on the band were the ones they placed on themselves.

The tone gets set right off the top with the blustery, swaggering and scruffy “Chicken Dog” (complete with guest vocals from Stax superstar Rufus Thomas) before jumping into the countrified end of the spectrum with “Magical Colors.” Between those two extremes lays all the terrain most regularly tread upon by The Blues Explosion but, in those two songs, many of the staple sounds that have been the band's bread and butter are also in full effect; (what Spin contributor Rob Sheffield called) Spencer's “Grade-Z Elvis impersonator” faux-Southern twang combines with Judah Bauer's deceptively solid country-blues guitar licks and Russell Simins' positively enormous drums in a charmed way and so make them the quintessential fare for the band, in spite of not really sounding at all similar. That ability to take stock examples of tradition yet reconstitute them in a dozen different ways typified the band's approach at the height of their powers and continues to burn with the same kind of fire here, but it's only two tracks in; as DSRNR illustrates, the band would go far further out.

After those parameters are initially set, the album immediately sets to showcasing just how far the band could stretch. Songs like “Money Rock N' Roll,” “Leave Me Alone So I Can Rock Again”, “She Said” and “Talk About The Blues” all express a fantastic faculty of writing fine genre rock songs while “Bellbottoms,” a live cut of “Fuck Shit Up,” (the Beck-infused) “Flavor”  and “Greyhound” do the same with a more distinctly R&B or Soul focus and “Wail,” “History Of Sex” and “Water Main” all smash their heads off the punk rock and, in each case, the band plays the sound to the hilt before letting it drop near completely to concentrate on something else. All the possible generic spaces in between get filled in here by material including “Buchemi,” “Shake 'Em On Down” and “Afro,” but those are really the gravy here – the aforementioned songs already illustrate that, if it could be found in the pop idiom, the Blues Explosion was not only game to give it a try, they could pull off their own permutation which would include equal amounts of “them” and “anything else.”

What appears on Dirty Shirt Rock 'N' Roll isn't the whole story, of course. This album pulls songs from the band's first decade in operation, which means their underrated (and overlooked) single Sanctuary Records release, Damage, the totally off-the-radar Jukebox Explosion (a covers album) and all of the import-only releases in the band's catalogue are omitted. For those previously uninitiated to the subversion of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion though, Dirty Shirt Rock 'N' Roll is a great way to let new listeners that have heard the myths but not the music cut their teeth and get a taste. Those fans that missed the band will be interested in this comp too because the songs have been refreshed a bit by new mixes helmed by Spencer himself. When you want more (and you will) Majordomo has already announced the release of deluxe, reissue editions of Now I Got Worry and Controversial Negro (CN was never released domestically in North America before, it's now packaged with Now I Got Worry for this re-release), Mo' Width and Extra Width (packaged together), A Reverse Willie Horton, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Crypt Style (all-in-one!), Orange and the Experimental Remixes EP (packaged together) and Acme/X-tra Acme USA to get more of the story under your belt. Even with all of those releases in the pipeline though, Dirty Shirt Rock 'N' Roll is the best place to start; it's an economical package that functions as an overview to get started. Start here, and catch the fever.

Artist:

www.thejonspencerbluesexplosion.com
 
www.myspace.com/jsbluesexplosion

Album:

Dirty Shirt Rock 'N' Roll
comes out on March 30, 2010 through Majordomo Records. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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