Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Melody Maker: The Sex-Philes (PRESS, UK)

17 May 1997 Melody Maker
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Melody Maker: The Sex-Philes (PRESS, UK)
Melody Maker article titled The Sex-Philes featuring The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

Melody Maker also ran a similar article five months earlier titled “Sex Marks The Spot” which can also be read on this site.

“No one ever said being cool meant being nice. Niceness is, in theory, anathema to the whole idea of cool, because it means you give a f***. And, as the divinely cool Blues Explosion frequently explain, giving a f*** just isn’t rock’n’roll. Rock’n’roll might literally mean f***ing, but that’s a different thing altogether.

Judah Bauer (guitar), Russell Simins (drums) and Jon Spencer himself (guitars/vocals), lead the movement to make rock’s raddled frame live up to its name. You’ve seen them live, a frenzy of abandon and wild-eyed energy. That’s sexmusik. You’ve heard the records, seizing you round the groin, a stream of electrons tapping right into the primal source. That’s sexmusik. And you’ve seen Jon Spencer himself, a breathtakingly attitudinous beauty. That’s sexmusik, too. People accuse the NYC trio of being fakes, but Christ, that attitude is for real. They are far from stupid – Jon tells me, unasked, that he hates journalists mentioning that he studied semiotics at university – and would undoubtedly be lucidly entertaining if they could bring themselves to give a f***. But then, that wouldn’t be cool.

We’re in a greasy spoon in London’s East End, and The Blues Explosion are smirking their way through fry-ups and my questions. We’re discussing their remarkable live presence – the way everyone lights up a cigarette afterwards.

How was it for you?

“We smoke afterwards, too,” says Russell.

“Orgasm would be on the right track,” agrees Jon.

How much of your appeal lies in the way you tap into all the myths of America, a place still synonymous with libertarian ideals? Do you feel like exotics?

“Yeah, I feel special” deadpans Jon. “It’s great being in a band and it’s great that band is The Blues Explosion. People treat is like royalty and that’s what we are. We’re the kings of rock’n’roll.”

You have your own district lexicon – all that NYC hip, alcohol. neon lighting, strip joints, sleaze. How much comes from the music and how much from you?

“Is that what you think?”

You’d have to be stupid not to notice it, I think mutinously…

Well, Oasis are hubcaps and cocaine, Blur are Essex and greyhounds…

“And we’re strippin’ and boozin’? Well, that’s the best of the three.”

If you want to deny you have style, that’s fine by me,

“We’re pretty simple dressers, I think” drawls Jon, hair at perfect angles, boots pointed like knives.

“We like to look good,” says Russell, dismissively.

“Actually, I like to look drunk, like I’ve come out of a strip joint, my eyes all red from the neon lights,” says Jon, archly.

They smirk.

How do you reconcile rock’n’roll’s masculine energy with its strangely feminising effect?

“I don’t think of ourselves as being macho,” shrugs Jon.

“We make sexy music and in order to be sexy you’ve got to be in touch with your feminine side.”

Interesting, I think, and try talking about androgyny, the history of sexually fluid pop stars affecting bisexuality to pull birds. But no.

“Does the idea of two men having sex excite you?” asks Jon.

Well, it’s kind of you to offer, Jon, but if you and Russell could just hold on until I get a photographer down here, that would make a great cover…

They widen their eyes in mock horror. Then – surprise, surprise – smirk. Cool.

Away from his mates, Jon is charmingly articulate, explaining why the music’s dirty, not them.

“None of us wanna look like we’re trying” says Jon, softly.

“A friend was saying she went to see Beck in Philadelphia a few nights ago and there were three costume changes. I can try and look nice but when I go out there it’s all gonna get mussed up. These clothes are gonna get soaking wet, dripping with sweat, and a lot of times, I’ve just tore ’em up.”

That is, you’ll agree, one hell of an image to leave you with. The fact, The Blues Explosion burrow right into rock’n’roll’s original sin, looking like they’ve come from heaven and sounding like they’re going to hell. They’re a gen-u-ine thrill.

Who said cool wasn’t something you could learn?

Victoria Segal

JSBE’s single, ‘Wail’, is out now on Mute ”