The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Freedom Tower Nick Hutchings , April 9th, 2015 09:19

Not since Beastie Boys' 2004 album To The 5 Boroughs has an album been such an impassioned love letter to New York City. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are back to fight for the city's right to party, and to paint a town turned beige with globalisation back to red. Jon Spencer doesn't care if a multinational coffee conglomerate has moved into Alphabet City. He doesn't give two hoots if the bankers are squeezing their hides into old meat packers haunts. Wherever you find Spencer, Simins and Bauer, that's the epicentre of the party. If all the artists, bohemians and hobos are moving out of Manhattan in a doughnut effect, then the Blues Explosion are the jam at its centre.

Lest you forget who's ready to bring it, mere seconds pass before the customary cheer of "BLUES EXPLOSION!" After the more stripped-back sound of the grave garage that permeated Meat & Bone, this album brings back the hip hop cut and paste that Spencer grew up with, and which he first explored with Pussy Galore on Dial M For Motherfucker, but most vividly and recently realised on the much underrated Acme and the rightly heralded Orange. A scratch, followed by a touch of reverb and a "back to the chorus" drop on 'Wax Dummy' is swiftly followed like a truncheon to the back of the knees by the squelches, disco licks and real live loops of 'Do The Get Down'.

Of course such is the collage gonzoid splatter-gun style of the Blues Explosion and their huge canon of songs its almost inevitable that they might inadvertently chance on something shiny from their own back catalogue and contort it. 'Born Bad' feels like a souped up 'Black Slider' from Afro into the breakdown of 'Train #1', but who cares when it sounds this good?  The guitar on 'Down & Out' has a honeyed familiarity that's part theme from The Red Hand Gang, part Dax-waxed kiss curl, but as Spencer says, "This is America girl, we don't have no class".

If you couldn't think the groove could get any deeper, you'd better make sure your carpets are reinforced or else you'll be ripping it a new hole with your heel. 'The Ballad Of Joe Buck' starts with a rhythm that cascades like sluiced mouthwash eddying down the sinkhole into alligator infested sewers. And that fresh feel is cemented by a name check for Pepsident toothpaste in the song 'Cooking For Television'.

Spencer is one for giving props where they're due, ranging from plugs for products to paeans to pop-stars. Here he gives a nod to Slim Jims, Doritos and Mulligan Stew in Heavy Trash's 'You Can't Win' and sings his ode to the band Doo Rag in 'They Were Kings'. Even more extensive is his list of inspirations, ranging from Graham Green to Ornette Coleman in 'Black Mold'. It should come as no surprise that Freedom Tower elicits a lift from rock & roll classic 'Chantilly Lace' by the Big Bopper in 'Dial Up Doll'. And 'Tutti Frutti' gets a tilt on 'Tales Of Old New York: The Rock Box'.

The variously titled Jon Spencer Blues Explosion may dip in and out of fashion like the Coney Island Cyclone, but that's because the music has never subway surfed any particular trend. Spencer once demanded, "Do you remember the 1990s? Do you remember the 1980s? DO YOU REMEMBER THE 1970S?!" Soon he will have to add another two and then three decades to his clarion call and response, because there's no need to turn out the lights. This party isn't over.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.