Monday, October 18, 2010

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Dirty Shirt Rock ‘N’ Roll: The First Ten Years

Check out Halloween Mix 2010 #3 for a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion song "She Said."

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Dirty Shirt Rock ‘N’ Roll: The First Ten Years
A Kaye Telle Review

Jon Spencer is a man of many faces. He is a crazed preacher proselytizing the electric gospel. He is a musical ringmaster with Tourette’s Syndrome repeatedly proclaiming, “the blues is number one.” He is the majestic mumbling Boomhauer of rock and roll. He and the Blues Explosion are here for one reason: to save rock and roll. And they do it repeatedly, as though it simply flows from their veins; as if they were born to do it. If you’ve ever seen them live, you know two things for certain: they take no prisoners and they are not fucking around.

These three men—Jon Spencer (vocals and guitar), Judah Bauer (guitar, backing vocals), and Russell Simins (drums)—come at you with the force of a tsunami. Spencer alternately oozes sex and confidence while spazzing out like a man possessed; Bauer is cool and laid back while laying down the foundation; and Simins looms large over his drum kit building beats like Godzilla driving a freight train that’s speeding straight for you. Phil Spector built an undeniable wall of sound, but The Blues Explosion could knock it down with just a few riffs and not even break a sweat. The Blues Explosion are a force to be reckoned with, so one had better get in on the party or get the hell out of the way.


If you ever bought a ticket for the ride, man, were you in for a good time. These boys tore it up. They made rock and roll that hit you in the gut and the crotch like rock music was intended to do. It was powerful heady stuff. Sure Spencer had his shtick, and fans made sport of counting how many times he shouted “Blues Explosion!” or “number one!” during a show or a song, but there was also honesty. The Blues Explosion were genuine. They delivered on the promise of rock and roll and then some.

If you have yet to hear The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, it’s fair to say that I both pity and envy you. I pity the fact that you missed out on one of the greatest live experiences to be had by a rock music fan, and pity that you’ve missed out on endless hours of musical bliss.

But I envy the experience you will have upon your first listen, the joy you will experience when you hear the bands new release Dirty Shirt Rock ‘N’ Roll, a best-of compilation by one of the best rock bands there ever was. . . or will be. From the blues infused down ‘n’ dirty “Chicken Dog” to the lazy groove of “Magical Colors” to the grimy, rockabilly humor of “Blues X Man,” this album is all killer, no filler.

“Bellbottoms” (which always makes for the perfect opener to a mix tape), comes in with strings and lulls the listener into a slow groove and then smacks the shit out of them with piercing guitars, drums going off like machine gun shells hitting the pavement, and ’round about the four minute mark—when Spencer proclaims “I Wanna Dance”—it gets even more intense, which hardly seems possible. “Shake Em Down” makes dance music from good, old fashioned blues. “Flavor” is one of the best collaborations ever to hit wax with Beck rapping and Mike D adding flair, not to mention the entertaining music video. Remember those? Not just videos, but entertaining videos? Yeah, The Blues Explosion had those, too.

It was just announced that The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion will perform at the Pitchfork Festival and if you have the means to see them live—do it. Make it happen, because I’d hedge a bet it will end up being one of your favorite concert memories.

Thanks for coming back, Blues Explosion. Now its time for everyone else to step aside so you can show them how it’s done. Yes indeed, the blues is number one.

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