released Mar 30th, 2010

from the album - Chicken Dog

YouTube - The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Chicken Dog

from all music

After a long and semi-successful tenure as leader of scuzz-rock heroes Pussy Galore, Jon Spencer took his anti-rock vision and hooked up with guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins to create the scuzz-blues trio the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Postmodern to the core, this is an ironic name; little of what this band plays resembles standard blues. There is, however, a blues feel to what they play, meaning that in many instances they appropriate aspects of the blues (very often clichés) and incorporate them into their anarchic, noisy sound. Not part of alternarock's commercial establishment, Spencer also managed to sharply divide critics who tended to see him as either inspired showman or mendacious con man (frankly, he's both). He did, however, gain popularity and critical respect throughout the '90s.

As with Royal Trux, the other band to emerge after the breakup of Pussy Galore, the Blues Explosion's earliest recordings are virtually incomprehensible (and impossible to find). The bass-less mix is awash in distorted guitars, precious little backbeat, and howled vocals. In its favor is the music's exciting, improvisatory feel; also true is that it's frequently incoherent and careless, and doesn't hold up well to repeated listenings. It was with the the Blues Explosion's 1992 self-titled release that the band began to write semi-coherent songs: Spencer adopted an imitation blues vocal style, and the band riffed wildly and crashed around him in a bluesy sort of way. It was mostly fun, but it also seemed like a bit of a put-on, and more than a little smug.

The Blues Explosion's "breakthrough" came (as it did for Royal Trux) when they began to sound like a '70s rock band. With the release of Extra Width in 1993, Spencer and company got some air time on MTV's alternarock show 120 Minutes with the video for the song "Afro." The most noticeable change was the new emphasis on tight songs, funky backbeats, and loads of catchy riffs and hooks. As for Spencer, he was now singing like a grade-Z Elvis impersonator, but, in turn, lost some of the condescending attitude. Live, the band was (and remains) quite a show, generating the kind of sweat and excitement that became anathema to many punk and post-punk bands. Orange, which was even more accessible than Extra Width, netted the band even more fans upon its release in 1994; 1996's Now I Got Worry and 1998's Acme were also successful. The band took a long hiatus thereafter, only returning four years later with 2002's Plastic Fang and 2004's Damage, the latter their first record for Sanctuary.

album review

We needed this. The excellent Jukebox Explosion, which collected all the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s singles, was released in 2007, and it was a serious boon for those who didn’t have access to turntables or decent record stores. What we didn’t have was a representative portrait of the insane mind-explosion wildness, shambolically combustible diversity, and bravado that could never be contained on a single album by the band. Each record was as different as the collective waste-oid mood that Spencer, Judah Bauer, and Russell Simins shifted. This massive 22-track set collects many of the group’s album tracks — sequenced by Spencer — that capture the entire range of the psychotic, roots-drenched roar that was JSBE. Spencer’s band was able to take roots rock, blues, R&B, and even funk and twist and turn them into something simultaneously ugly and irresistibly seductive. Check the opener, “Chicken Dog,” where, assisted by the great Rufus Thomas, they managed a Memphis rock & roll not heard since the Panther Burns' earliest days, pasted onto a two-chord riff and taut, slamming beat with a huffing bag's worth of airplane glue. It’s followed by “Magical Colors,” with Spencer vampirically hosting the ghost of Mick Jagger (à la Emotional Rescue) and marrying it to Memphis soul, slippery guitar, and bass riffs that the Rolling Stones are no longer capable of. Contrast this with the rage of “History of Sex,” from 1991, where punk rock and early Chicago blues hook up against a wall for some filthy fun in a glass-strewn alley on a sweat-drenched summer night. The polluted funk of “Afro,” from 1993, contains sampled flute sounds, a monolithic bass vamp, and a B-3 cranking over the wah-wah guitar. Spencer alternately croons and growls all but indecipherable lyrics before his ten-second guitar solo turns everything within earshot into nuclear waste. Check the clavinet funk in “Buscemi” and the use of strings in “Bellbottoms” for further evidence of murky devil funk and groove consciousness, where the beat is as big — and real — as the boast. “Shake 'Em on Down” is here in edited form from the A Ass Pocket of Whiskey collaboration with R.L. Burnside, as is “Love Ain’t on the Run” from the unholy union between JSBE and the Dub Narcotic Sound System. These songs are two versions of the blues that conjure the spirits of the Delta via misanthropic musi-erotic fantasies of forbidden unions in the dimly lit juke joints from Spencer and his mates’ collective imagination. Some see irony in JSBE's music. It's there but not because of amplified imitation; it's mockery of how far rock & roll had traveled from its origins. For ten years, JSBE gave indie rock, grunge, and everything that came after a gigantic, righteous middle finger. This big-slice reminder of that is exactly what we need in the 21st century when the wildness inherent in rock's backbone has all but utterly disintegrated.

Track Listing

1 Chicken Dog Explosion 2:59
2 Magical Colors Explosion, Spencer 4:08
3 Money Rock'n'Roll Explosion, Spencer 3:01
4 Love Ain't on the Run Dub Narcotic Sound System ... 2:40
5 Blues X Man Explosion, Spencer 3:32
6 Buscemi Explosion 1:40
7 Bellbottoms Explosion, Spencer 5:16
8 History of Sex Explosion, Spencer 1:45
9 **** Shit Up [live] Dubnarcotic 1:40
10 Leave Me Alone So I Can Rock Again Explosion, Spencer 5:04
11 Shake 'Em on Down [edit] Burnside 4:00
12 Train #2 Explosion, Spencer 2:24
13 Water Main Explosion, Spencer 1:12
14 Hell Explosion, Spencer 3:24
15 Wail Explosion, Spencer 3:08
16 Afro Explosion, Spencer 2:40
17 Greyhound Explosion, Spencer 4:03
18 Talk About the Blues Explosion, Spencer 3:57
19 Flavor [edit] Explosion, Spencer 4:36
20 Feeling of Love Explosion, Spencer 1:45
21 Lap Dance Explosion 3:24
22 She Said [edit] Explosion, Spencer 2:56