Release Date: Sep 18, 2012
Record label: Mom & Pop Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Blues-Rock, Indie Rock, Punk Blues, Electric Blues, Garage Rock Revival, Retro-Rock
It’s understandable that Jon Spencer might be seeking a little payback these days. The refashioned blues of Jack White, The Black Keys and the growing list of artists connected to them have come to dominate conversations about the current state of rock and roll. Yet, few recall that it was Spencer who had proclaimed, “the blues is number one!” back in the early 1990s, a time when the fledgling JSBX was a borderline novelty act—a bass-less trio led by a punk who suddenly couldn’t decide whether he was Elvis Presley or James Brown.
Review Summary: Back to the grindAs their name implies, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (JSBE) are old-fashioned, organic and highly combustible. Meat + Bone is yet another full platter of goodness from the rock and roll butcher’s window. From the first second of opener “Black Mold”, sounding like an even more hyperactive re-tread of The Fall’s cover of “Victoria”, there is no concession to pacing, no kowtowing to subtlety and certainly no right of way for a slow dance.
Before the White Stripes, before the Black Keys, there was the Blues Explosion – a roiling New York three-piece who played the music of wizened Delta men with the zeal of urban punks, repackaging it for hipsters. You might argue that the two latter-day outfits are in Jon Spencer's debt. But then, the blues is the most ripped-off genre extant, so all bets are off.
For those who consider JSBX nothing but a snug-leather-pants-wearing, Black & White hair-pomade-coated, one-trick pony, we hereby present you with a potent continuation of the finest sonic stunt a horse has ever pulled. The trio’s first new album in eight years finds The Black Keys’ filthy uncles, Grinderman’s cellmates and The Stooges’ delinquent offspring still deeply embedded in a scuzzy groove. Original alt-blues preacherman Spencer is on ferocious form here, kicking out the jams via the roadhouse psych of ‘Black Thoughts’, ‘Strange Baby’’s swampy hollering and demon juke joint anthem ‘Danger’.Leonie Cooper .
Usually when bands release career retrospectives and reissues of earlier albums, it can be something of a red flag for fans and a white flag for the artist. Two years ago, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion did both of those things, dropping a best-of collection—sorry, “career retrospective”—and deluxe editions of five of their Matador albums. Yet for a band like JSBE, this move was a godsend.
When the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion returned to the stage two years ago after a six-year layoff, their mission was philosophically simple, if physically demanding: They just had to live up to their reputation as the perpetually sweat-soaked band that showed the 90s American indie underground how to get down. And as that 2010 reunion tour-- which coincided with extensive reissues of the band's 90s-era catalog-- continued to rack up positive notices well into 2011, there was little doubt that, even well into their 40s, frontman Jon Spencer, guitarist Judah Bauer, and drummer Russell Simins still possessed the stamina of their twentysomething selves. However, what the Blues Explosion could bring to the table as a rebooted recording act was far less certain.
“Do you remember the 1990s?”, asks Jon Spencer during one of Meat and Bone’s early refrains. He goes on to ask if we remember the ‘80s and the ‘70s, but those decades are hardly the point here. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s last proper album (not counting compilations and reissues) was 2004’s rather enjoyable Damage. After belting out harder edged blues/punk/rock than the White Stripes or the Black Keys could’ve dared to for over a decade, Spencer, Judah Bauer and Russell Simins took a rather unannounced break.
It's only fair to be wary of an album of new material from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion; after all, it's been eight years. There have been so many embarrassing reunions from virtually every corner of the rock & roll spectrum (the offending parties shall remain nameless) that a solid argument could be made for an enforced moratorium. Thankfully, JBSE's Meat + Bone proves the exception.
Even at his trashiest, Jon Spencer has always injected his Blues Explosion with a healthy dose of glam rock. That tendency has grown stronger on recent albums, sporadic though they are. Meat And Bone finds Spencer at what is arguably his most Bowie-esque. He pouts and growls, only occasionally employing the shouted outbursts and shout-outs to his own band that defined his early style.
A tipping point has been reached over the past few years where reforming is no longer noteworthy, it’s standard. From that favourite indie band you saw at fresher’s week, to era defining stadium acts, it seems everyone is cashing in on the reunion tour cheque. Whatever the reasoning behind the milking of the cash cow, reunions are often confined to the live arena; everyone can get their hit and head home happy.
When Jon Spencer disbanded the Blues Explosion following the release of Damage in 2004, many accepted the fact that the most deliriously off-the-wall band in rock and roll might’ve finally run off the rails for good. After close to 15 years of stretching and distorting blues, soul, and garage rock into his own half-crazed musical plaything, it made sense for Spencer to want to step out into new musical territory. Stupid us, huh? For a band as pumped with sheer madcap energy as the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, we should have known better than to take the trio’s leave for anything more than an extended hiatus.
Man alive – has it really been seven years since the release of the last album by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion? That’s seven years that’s seen their descendents in the form of The White Stripes (and Jack White’s attendant side projects and subsequent solo career) and The Black Keys rocket from cult status to mainstream acceptance and planet-striding success. Not that Spencer’s been work-shy during that period; three albums with Heavy Trash have seen him expand on his modus operandi while other musical concerns have kept the man busy, but there’s nothing quite like the chemistry he concocts with guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins by his side. Unlike the children they unwittingly spawned, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion have always operated in a rarefied space that’s completely their own.
After eight years out, the Blues Explosion slip their bellbottoms back on. Stevie Chick 2012 When the re-release of their back catalogue a few years back invited listeners to cast a critical eye over the oeuvre of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, it was hard not to conclude that, fine though their latter-day dalliances with the more traditional end of blues songwriting were, they weren’t as thrilling as the band’s chaotic mid-90s peak. They were still good.