Story of the Blues Explosion
When the blues explodes you’d better run for cover. Fiona Shepherd listened to the blast.
Some are born cool. Others attain cool. And others have cool thrust upon them. Some have the rhythm. Some have the blues. Some have both. Some think they have both, but in fact have neither. What Jon Spencer (don‘t call him Frank) and his Blues Explosion (pron: ba-LOOOZE Explosion!!!) have to do with any of this is debatable, but the man certainly has great shoes.
There have always been a wide array of influences in the Blues Explosion. With this record it’s more of a blending, a little more homogenised, yeah.’
Were fellow US rabble-rousers Rocket From The Crypt not the best tumed-out combo to hit Top Of The Pops in an age a couple of weeks back? And therefore, by extrapolation, the sexiest, the most exciting. the best performers, boasting the best songs and the best ﬁghters too. Similarly, when The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion get their chance to blitz The Pops, an occasion which, in these days of radical chart reform. must surely come. they will lay waste to
\ d , _ -,t' The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: you can’t see them but
the shoes are very cool the sensibilities of an audience used to nothing more aurally and visually challenging than some scruffy anoraked lads with guitars (The Prodigy are an exception to the rule here).
As with Jon Spencer‘s previous cult noise band Pussy Galore, The Blues Explosion got rock ‘n‘ roll. And according to their new album Now 'I Got Worry, they got angst and they gotta exorcise it (sorry about the Americanisms — they]ust happen when discussing the Blues Explosion) in deep, drawly, vocal tones. swampy drums and sharp, colliding guitars which, if anything, sound rawer than their last album Orange, the one on which Mr Spencer made it clear you were listening to ‘the ba-LOOOZE Explosion!‘
‘lf I‘d done that throughout this record, people would have been ready to kill me,‘ he says in a
drawling twang which sounds so right for someone who is basically a bluesman for the 905. Jon Spencer‘s enunciation is legendary, or it should be. Now I Got Worry contains a particularly splendid reference to ‘Baton Rouge‘ with the vowels distended magniﬁcently. (in fact, it enhances things if you read his quotes with a laidback American drawl.) But back to Now I Got Worry.
‘You can‘t make the same record every year.‘ he says, also referring to the fact that this album will not be remixed by other artists and Dis like Orange. ‘Orange was really inﬂuenced by the rap music we were listening to and I think there‘s still some in there. I just don‘t think it‘s as prominent. There have always been a wide array of inﬂuences in the Blues Explosion. With this record it‘s more of a blending, a little more homogenised, yeah.‘ He throws in the ‘yeah‘, like it was some improvised exclamation from one of his cathartic songs.
Another difference, and bad news for theremin fans who wibble in the earshot of its trademark wobble effect (stop me if I‘m getting too technical here). is that there is no theremin on this album, where the last one positively undulated with its sonic distortions.
‘lt‘s a lot more effective live,‘ says Spencer, ‘and I think we will continue to use it for the live show but like i said itjust wasn‘t around when l was mixing the record.‘
A valuable addition to recording, who was around however, was Staxman Rufus Thomas, who adds his earthy vocals to ‘Chicken Dog‘, an appropriate song for the man who originally introduced the world to the ‘Funky Chicken‘ and urged us to ‘Walk The Dog’. That must have been a bizarre experience, turning up at a Memphis studio at the behest of a raucous garage band he‘d never heard of, let alone met.
‘Naaaw. He‘s Rufus Thomas; he‘s met plenty of people he’s never met. lt‘s nothin‘ to him.‘ Cool. He could have done a lot worse than pass on the responsibility of continuing the story of the blues to Mr Jon Spencer.
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion play the Music Box. Edinburgh on Thurs 3 Oct.
Rufus Thomas plays the Brewhouse. Glasgow. Fri 2 7 Sept.
mountain music formula, and writes
COUNTRY subsequent impressive debut album, cool songs into the bargain. Revival, produced by T-Bone ‘I discovered bluegrass while I was Burnette, contains her own, more ' in college, and when i first heard it, straight-forwardly acoustic version a light went on. I’m a fool for those of the song, and provides a fine _ gritty, abrasive, very intense two- sampling of her distinctly un- part harmonies, and the music suits llashville approach to country nurslc. my playing and singing real well - ‘There's a cutting edge to what we it’s acoustic, which We always do, but also a sweetness. We try to Billion (with a hard ‘6’) Welch digs liked, but it was hard driving too, be real traditional in some ways, but deep into the roots of Appalachian and didn’t pull any punches. For me, it’s not straight-ahead bluegrass mountain music and its later it had all the grit l was hearing in a because we don’t play fast enough, bluegrass derivative for her band like the Velvet Underground, and it's definitely not folk, or inspiration. She draws on the classic but in a different way. I started mainstream country. It's a lot of two-part harmonies of The Stanley playing with David, and it developed sensibilities meeting - somebody Brothers or The Blue Sky Boys. but from there - he’s a good songwriting once called John Fahey an her musical tastes have been formed partner, too.’ “American Primitive”, and I guess equally by the likes of REM and The , One of those songs, ‘orphan Birl’, that's maybe a good name for what Pixies. Along with her songwriting .' was covered by Enunylou llarris and we do, tee.’ (Kenny mum) and performing partner, David “'4'” Daniel Lanols on Wrecking Ball, Gillian Helen and David newline “OWNS. 8'! “Ilium up a which helped to raise Wolcli’s profile play at Biackfrims, Glasgow, on contemporary twist on the classic mm" W“: mm“ Wm" several notches higher. llor Thurs 3 not.
The List 20 Sept-3 Oct 1996 31