Friday, April 02, 2010

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion — Dirty Shirt Rock N' Roll: The First Ten Years
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's name wasn't overhyped when the band hit the music scene in 1992 with its self-titled debut album after the demise of Spencer's previous band, Pussy Galore.
The singing and guitar-playing Spencer teamed up with fellow guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins to create a pioneering scuzzy mix of loud blues, punk and soulful rock-and-roll  that didn't need a bass to shake up a room. And while the band experimented with that formula a bit over the years through working with the likes of Dan The Automator and Beck, that original sound stayed with the band through the first 10 years of its career that are documented on this newly released Majordomo Records compilation.
Spencer chose and sequenced the album's 22 tracks to give a good overview of what his group was all about. It begins with a Rufus Thomas hook-up on "Chicken Dog" and ends with the single edit of "She Said" from Plastic Fang, the group's final album under its original name. There's a good cross-section of material in between.
The psychedelic "Magical Colors" is probably the gentlest and most melodic song on the record, and features Spencer singing more than growling. Incorporating a string section works surprisingly well on the multi-parted "Bellbottoms." There's a vicious live recording of "Fuck Shit Up" and a primitive "Water Main." Organ looms large on "Afro," while "Feeling Of Love" features some wailing harmonica.
Then there are the collaborations: Dub Narcotic Sound System on the greasy "Love Ain't On The Run;" Spencer's wife and Boss Hog bandmate Christina Martinez singing on "Blues X Man;" Money Mark playing organ on the primarily instrumental "Buscemi;" R.L. Burnside singing and playing guitar on his "Shake 'Em On Down;" Luther, Cody and Jim Dickinson going to "Hell;" Dan The Automator scratching on "Talk About The Blues;" "Flavor" remixed by Beck, Mario Caldato Jr. and Beastie Boy Mike D; and Andre Williams getting down and dirty as only he can on "Lap Dance."
This album isn't great from start to finish, but there are enough high points to keep your attention, and Mike Edison's liner notes help set the stage to create the right mental imagery for those of us who've never seen the band on stage.
Dirty Shirt Rock N' Roll: The First Ten Years is kicking off a campaign that will see all of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's albums reissued in remastered form with rare and unreleased bonus tracks, new liner notes and photos. All titles will also be available digitally, some for the first time.
Heavy Trash is still my favourite Spencer band, but the Blues Explosion will always be his most influential.

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