The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – New York Times: Review/Rock; Breaking Through Barriers (PRESS, US)

10 December 1992 New York Times
Review of Jesus Lizard, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Arcwelder show at CBGB, New York City, NY, US on 6 December 1992.
“Review/Rock; Breaking Through Barriers

By Ann Powers

Dec. 10, 1992

White musicians’ attraction to the blues has always carried traces of guilty magic, like Prometheus stealing fire. And post-punk ironists approach the blues with less reverence than did the baby boomers, dismantling the legacy instead of worshiping it. At CBGB’s on Sunday night, two bands proved the genre’s enduring lure, even as they ripped its elements to shreds.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was more successful, because of the group’s willingness to thoroughly challenge the music’s norms. Mr. Spencer, formerly of Pussy Galore, led his trio through a set of clanking musical pull-aparts grounded in the sleazy rhythms of 1960’s garage punk. Looking like a Wall Street trader gone hopelessly awry, Mr. Spencer yelped and groaned and spat out cliched lyrics about rambling, being spooky and getting down. Each element of the Blues Explosions’ songs fell away into separate strands, as did Mr. Spencer’s vocals, which often dissolved into phonetic play. This chaos revealed the blues’ bare bones, as if the genre’s flesh had been blasted away.

Next up was the Jesus Lizard, a Chicago band known for its onstage intensity. David Yow, the group’s singer, came onstage in a red fringed cowboy shirt, looking like Dustin Hoffman as Ratso Rizzo in “Midnight Cowboy.” Mr. Yow lived up to his lunatic reputation as the band ground out heavy blues rock laced with metal and hard-core influences. He ripped apart stuffed animals and threw the pieces into the crowd and fell into fans’ outstretched arms like a willing sacrifice. Yet his charisma did not prevent the band’s slow dirges and cocky rompers from getting dull. In the end, the Jesus Lizard got mired in its own muck, while the Jon Spencer Blues explosion managed to break through to new musical terrain.”

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