September 21, 2012
Review: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – ‘Meat and Bone’
“Do you remember the 1990s? Do you remember the 1980s? Do you remember the 1970s?!” screams Jon Spencer on ‘Bag of Bones’, an early highlight on Meat and Bone. It’s an interesting series of questions, one that the first Jon Spencer Blues Explosion studio album in eight years seemingly answers thusly: no; no; yes.
Meat and Bone is packed to the rafters with all the bluesy, gnarly garage rock and slapback delay you’d expect from Mr Spencer et al, and vinyl purchases of the album even come complete with a custom made, individually numbered ‘Blues Exploder’ fuzz pedal. Don’t forget: this is a group who, in their 20 year history, have uncompromisingly continued headstrong into the murky world of the overdriven and gritty, positioning themselves as kings of the new wave of blues-punk.
A true power trio fleshed out by Judah Bauer on guitar and Russell Simins’ rock-solid backbeat, the group waste no time getting the ball rolling on Meat and Bone, with opener ‘Black Mold’ exploding out the blocks with a crunching, descending riff and Spencer’s grizzled holler. The esoteric frontman has long thought to have been plucked from the rib of the late Don Van Vliet, and there’s a touch of Beefheart-type growl to his performance on ‘Ice Cream Killer’ and ‘Bag of Bones’ among others.
‘Unclear’ is a low-down and dirty blues stomper, honouring the genre’s lineage with more than just hackneyed pastiche, while ‘Bottle Baby’ sees Spencer giving a mock acceptance speech at the podium before pointing out he’s “still got a problem paying the rent.”
Unlike compatriot rock ‘n roll revivalists Jim Jones Revue or fellow garage rockers like Ty Segall, the JSBE aren’t afraid to get into a groove every now and then too. The heavy duty, jam band funk of ‘Get Your Pants Off’ and the extended instrumental workout of closer ‘Zimgar’ hint at a variety that’s not always necessary, but nonetheless is gladly received.
Meat and Bone is exactly what you might expect from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – nothing more, and definitely nothing less. The group offer little that can’t be gleaned from the recent early years collection Dirty Shirt Rock ‘n’ Roll, outside of a rawer, more distilled JSBE sound. But then if that’s what you’re after, fill your boots.
Read this review in context over at THE 405