The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – John Spencer Blues Explosion – Dirty Shirt Rock ‘n’ Roll: The FIrst Ten Years (PRESS, US)

22 July 2010
 Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - John Spencer Blues Explosion - Dirty Shirt Rock 'n' Roll: The First Ten Years (PRESS, US)
Review of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion retrospective compilation Dirty Shirt Rock ‘n’ Roll: The First Ten Years.

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“John Spencer Blues Explosion – Dirty Shirt Rock ‘N Roll: The First Ten Years [Album]

by Stephen Smith

The John Spencer Blues Explosion have been a favorite of mine ever since I first heard their album “Orange” back in 1994 which blew me away. John Spencer’s deconstruction of the blues was mesmerizing. I was hooked and I sought out some of his other works, such as “Extra Width” and his collaboration with blues legend R.L. Burnside on “A Ass Pocket of Whiskey”.

First of all, I need to tell you a little about John Spencer’s style of music. ‘Deconstruction of the Blues’ is too light of a term. It is more like total annihilation and re-building with a nod of complete respect to all of his blues influences, the names of which I will get into in a minute. John Spencer started in a punk, noise-art band called Pussy Galore. They specialized in carrying garage punk to new heights, the noisier the better. Trashcan lids, aluminium cans, chainsaws, any found sound available all became instruments in a barrage of insane, sometimes deafening distortion. The weird thing is this worked and 1960’s garage rock and punk never sounded heavier. Spencer was an insane lead man for the band, his energy unstoppable. Pussy Galore split in 1990.…enter The John Spencer Blues Explosion.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is a little bit more accessible than Pussy Galore. More straight blues influences and more melody. John Spencer’s vocals also began to mature with him coming off as a cross between a maddened Lux Interior of The Cramps, Mick Jagger, and Elvis with plenty of swagger to boot. Music wise, a little 1970’s funk and soul plays into the equation, along with early classic blues artists such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and a healthy dose of The Rolling Stones and The Cramps, all cranked up as high as can be. The music can be confusing, astounding, and hip-shaking all at once. Bizarre jump cuts and breaks abound. Spencer’s howling and moaning never lets up. Otherworldy sounds abound if you will, and there is always a deep ever present classic blues influence. All the while John Spencer manages to squeeze some of the nastiest sounds out of his guitar that I have ever heard whilst his music is always both retro and modern.

So I was particularly proud to hear of the release of “Dirty Shirt Rock ‘N Roll: The First Ten Years”. It does a great job of covering the first and very productive part of Spencer’s solo career. This album is a great place to start for the non initiated or for those wanting to go back and relive those moments. There is not a weak track on here and it’s a perfect compilation. Some may argue over a few of the song choices on here, but that’s really going to be the case with any compilation album.

Let’s look at some of the tracks. The album kicks off with ‘Chicken Dog‘, an insane, hip shaking, old school blues track that is irresistible. Then there is ‘Magical Colors’. It has a smooth Rolling Stone-esque riff and a cool farsifa organ. Spencer’s vocals are so smooth and sleazy on this track and there again lies the Mick Jagger and Lux Interior influence. There’s ‘Blues Explosion Man’ which is soul shaking, hand clapping, exhilarating blues at it’s finest. A standout track is ‘Bellbottoms’, with a very nasty guitar riff, funk beat and strings overlaying everything like a classic 1970’s soul song should! Bizarre jump cuts abound on this track and John’s vocal exuberance and attitude on this track will be hard for anyone to match in the foreseeable future. They shortened the song for the video of this song, leaving out the string intro. There is also his collaboration with Mississippi blues legend R.L. Burnside ’Shake ’em on Down’ which is completely out of control. Man those two work well together.

There are 22 tracks on this album. I would be here all day talking about each one (and I could). Trust me, just pick this one up. If you like gritty blues, the 1970’s, The Rolling Stones and The Cramps, The John Spencer Blues Explosion will not disappoint. “Dirty Shirt Rock ‘N Roll” comes highly recommended.”