|8 August 1996||NME||–|
Live Review of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion from the NME by James Oldham.
Photo: Andy Willsher.
Review of a VPRO Session at Studio Amstel, Amsterdam, Netherlands recorded on 24 July 1996 but broadcast at a later date.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
LET’s FACE it, you want to be Jon Spencer. You want his snazzy outfits (pimp shoes, big-collared shirts), you want his screw-you attitude (“Allllright, ladies and gentlemen, this is the part of the show whereyou htrow your arms in the air, and kiss my ass, because your girlfriend still loves me”), but most of all you want to roll around on the floor with a battered guitar occasionally mouthing obscenities into a microphone. After all that’s rock’n’roll – and the Blues Explosion do it better than anyone currently able to plug in an electric guitar (Er… – Ed.)
And, of course, it isn’t really anything to do with the music, although that just happens to be pretty good anyway. Instead, your attention is focused on the demonic adrenaline of Jon Spencer, and the unbridled chaos he seems intent on creating the moment he touches his guitar. Immediately turning manic, he takes a step back, jerks straight towards the mike, and screams, “C’mon bay-bee! We’re the Bloooze Explosion!” And he’s off.
For the next 40 minutes or so, he howls out a series of entirely unconnected phrases (entirely based on the winning ‘Bloooze Explosion!” formula), kneels on the floor, rams his guitar into his amp, and on several occasions attempts to swallow his mike by inserting most of it into his mouth. “There’s one thing you should know,” he warns us at a later stage. “I’m trouble, bay-bee!”
Meanwhile, his Blues Explosion comrades manfully attempt to introduce us to a selection of their new material. And, in an admirable stab at continuity, it’s largely the same as everything Spencer’s ever written since he formed Pussy Galore back in 1985. The music stops, it syarts, and then it resolutely refuses to maintain the same rhythm for more than 30 seconds. This, beedless to say, requires Russell Simins to maintain a constant blur of flailing limps as he attempts to demolish his drumkit, while Mr Judah Bauer hunches over his guitar shooting out those even filthier blues riffs. In short, the new songs are as fantastic as ever.
‘Wail’ does just that, ‘Love All Me’ is the usual feedback-Elvis mess, while ‘F___ Shit Up’ sees Judah Bauer preaching rock’n’roll revolution over a Beastie Boys groove. ‘Get Over Here’, on the other hand, consists entirely of Spencer repeating that phrase over and over again until he has to launch himself at the amp, screaming, “Come Onnnnnn.” And that’s just the warm-up. “Right now, we’re going back,” hollers Spencer, “and if this doesn’t work you need to get yourself checked.”
The Explosion immediately hurl themselves into an unbroken assault on the best of ‘Orange’, ‘Sweat’ is followed by ‘Dang’, and then a dangerously frenzied ‘Full Grown’. At which point, Spencer loses the plot completely. Chucking his guitar to the floor, he paces the stage, kicks his mike stand into the crowd and attacks a hapless photographer. Then, turning to his Theremin, he flicks the switch, does his kung-fu posturing and jumps on the drumkit – all the time bellowing, “My father was Sister Ray.” As the song finishes, Spencer stops shaking, looks up and senses that one last time we need reminding of something really quite important. “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the “Bloooze Explosion.”