The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Jukebox Explosion Rockin’ Mid-90s Punkers (PRESS, US)

30 November 2007
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Jukebox Explosion Rockin' Mid-90s Punkers (PRESS, US)
Review of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion compilation Jukebox Explosion Rockin’ Mid-90s Punkers.

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Jon Spencer realized long ago that trying to engage the Stones or the Stooges or Howlin’ Wolf intellectually is a fool’s errand. Spencer is a better racketeer and guitarist than capital-A artist, so he apes their style while holding their complexities in open contempt. Jukebox Explosion Rockin’ Mid-90s Punkers!, a collection of In the Red singles and a handful of rarities, speaks to Spencer’s sense of history and controlled irreverence.

The packaging for Jukebox is like that of any blues comp: fuzzy photographs and humble anachronisms. Uncut sheets of 7″ labels are strewn about, and there’s a warning about surface noise from the vinyl transfer– vinyl released to mimic a series of singles by rockabilly legend Charlie Feathers. Collecting five 7″‘s released by In the Red and adding eight additional tracks, Jukebox does nothing to show Spencer’s range– he had little– and no summation of his career would take Jukebox’s 50 minutes. What Jukebox does do, at least moreso than Spencer’s Matador albums, is highlight JSBX’s bilious competitive streak. Do not pit two minutes of your music against the JSBX; they will fucking hurt you.

The In the Red issues are the most righteously contentious: rancorous spurts like “Shirt Jac” and “Bent” are mainline fury, though the sluttish horn on “Son of Sam” and barroom piano on “Get With It” point towards the well-worn dynamics the band would quietly accumulate. The four-minute Orange outtake “Showgirl Pts 1 & 2” is Jukebox’s most thrilling entry. With Cristina Martinez (Pussy Galore, Boss Hog, Mrs. Jon Spencer) whispering in the background, wailing blues chords war with whistling synths. Spencer screams “Fuck! I ain’t goin’ out like that…Wake up!”. Pity they didn’t aim at this experimental-cum-blues-noir more often. “Do Ya Wanna Get It” features Dr. John on piano and gives the idea of what kind of firepower Spencer might carry should you decide to, um, actually engage him in musical battle.

The hilariously annotated notes, though not written by Spencer, play up the band’s reputation, recounting how the “pussy” Caroline label threatened to sue over a song bearing its name. “Dig My Shit” was originally available “on an otherwise completely worthless compilation on Matador Records”. Jukebox’s cover features a zombie JSBX shoveling dirt on crudely labeled records (Oasis! Pixies!).

None of this is meant to disguise the fact that Spencer has been playing one song, at slightly varying tempos, since 1985, and that this song has mostly gotten worse with age. The fifth In the Red single cut during the Plastic Fangs sessions, “Ghetto Mom” / “Do Ya Wanna Get It” is by some margin the weakest material here. Jukebox’s arcane sequencing– on which A-sides are separated from B’s and a bizarre assortment of rarities are inserted at random– does the collection no favors. Do not, though, make the mistake of backing the wrong dog in this fight; Spencer knew exactly what he was doing. Submitting a single to In the Red, he scribbled, “The songs are short…So make this fucker loud!…Print labels silver on deep/navy blue if possible. Big holes.” Now them’s fightin’ words.

— Andrew Gaerig, November 30, 2007