The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – NME: London Harlsden Mean Fiddler (PRESS, UK)

6 September 1997 NME 35
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - NME: London Harlsden Mean Fiddler (PRESS, UK)
Live review of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Mean Fiddler, London by April Long.
“The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
London Harlesden Mean Fiddler

CHICKEN DOG, Bay-buh, Uh-huh. Yayuh. Jon Spencer’s vocabulary seems to be a bit limited. But it doesn’t matter, seeing as how it’s almost completely unintelligible, murmured low and soft in a sub-Elvis drawl, uttered intimately and breathing into the microphone as though it were a sexual walkie-talkie, wired straight into the genital region of each and every audience member. “You feelin’ good? I’m feelin’ sooooo good. Let me hear ya say, ‘Yayuh’. Uh-huh.” And so on, and on, and on…

Still, the entertainment this evening, laydus and gentlemunuh, is a soundtrack for white trash America. It swaggers with aggressive confidence, it sweats with sexual overtones and reeks of pick-up truck fumes, it swings itself Dukes Of Hazzard-style in and out of trashy ’70s cars, eats fried chicken and grits and it always on the wrong side of the law.

And what’s remarkable is that it only takes two guitars and a drumkit to create such a massive, staggering, eardrum-ripping sledgehammer of sound. ‘Two Kindsa Love’ steadily thumps its way into a screaming musical orgasm, as Spencer shrieks, “Higher, baybuh!” while climbing up on amps, flailing his arms, running laps round the stage. “I gotta do it!” he wails and then crumples to the floor with a relieved exhalation. But even before he’s down, he springs back up again, and the whole routine restarts with the appropriately titled ‘Wail’

The performance verges on pantomime, but the music burns and thrusts in a sonic assault that may never suprise but will always excite. Permeated with the legacy of The King, it is sleazy and dangerous – a flaming lunatic cocktail of blues, funk, rockabilly and punk. And yes, (oops – yayuh, rather) maybe it is being played in every basement bar in New Orleans and Memphis, USA – but not so loudly or so convincingly as by Jon Spencer.

But despite all this, despite the unadulterated thrill of seeing this man perform, you have to wonder how long it can last? How much longer can the Blues Explosion keep bashing out their peculiar brand of feedback delirium without becoming boring? This isn’t the most forward-looking of genres, and Jon Spencer hasn’t changed his tune (quite literally) for over a decade. The prospect of seeing him in the year 2025 mumbling into a microphone and looking like Anthony Perkins in Psycho IV is a frankly terrifying one.

Tonight, however, the pleasure is in the immediacy of the moment. It’s in the manic energy, in the feverish enthusiasm, in the provocative, pulsating rhythm. Right now there is no choice other than to succumb and, rather embarrassingly, start shouting, ‘Yayuh!’. Because Jon Spencer, baybuh, he feels sooooo good. And by now, so does everybody else.

April Long”