Album Reviews

Blues Explosion – Damage

(mute) UK release date: 27 September 2004


If the blues ain’t broke, why fix it? For the uninitiated, welcome to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. For the converted, surely the only band that could wear shades at night and get away with it. Outkast may well be “the coolest muthafunkers on the planet” but for all out cool from their snake-oil lubricated blues howl down to the depths of their black leather boots, the Blues Explosion could give them a run for their money.

Dropping the Jon Spencer from the name seems to be the only serious deviation from the skinny-ass, fat-bass sprawl swamp-punk they’ve been peddling for over fifteen years. Drawing from the boozy, bluesy greatness of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Howlin Wolf, The Stooges and The Cramps, deviation has always been the way, not the option with these guys. Dripping like honey from a smoking Magnum, loaded with bourbon, this is music from the dark night of the soul and the hungover and hoping to die morning after.

The unholy trinity of Jon Spencer, Judah Bauer and Russell Simmins are joined, juiced and collaborated from the swamps to more sleaze-ridden back-room clubs by producers DJ Shadow, David Holmes, Martina Topley-Bird and Public Enemy‘s Chuck D. Fusing the swaggering sleaze of cocksure guitars to the street suss of hip hop and nailing the afterbirth to the rollicking frenetic madman’s street-preaching gurgle of Jon Spencer himself. This sure ain’t pretty, but it sure feels good.

Despite that, there are gentler moments as the honey-voiced Martina Topley-Bird coos and moans on Spoiled as it shimmies woozily around a voodoo percussive breakdown. Hot Gossip features Chuck D as rap meets funk metal, there’s the convulsing jazz instrumental on Rivals and even the punchy pop of Crunchy.

You Been My Baby could be a tender ballad in clumsier hands, but here becomes a space-rock crescendo of Spiritualized proportions. Fed Up And Low Down has to be the killer track threatening to collapse under the speed of attack and unhinged exorcisms. Rattling could be an updated Suicide track, cut and spliced through a battery of effects to go low-down voodoo paranoiac on yer scared ass – understated it surely ain’t. This is not navel-gazing ‘baby done left me’ introspection, this is kick-ass ‘so whatcha gonna do’ bluster and bile.

Raging, pounding rhythms propel this beast along the scorching tracks past stations of southern rock, white soul, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, gospel and anything touched with the black leather glove of cool. Conviction is the word. Never has someone yelped so convincingly that “I have moved Heaven and Earth to bring you people this message! These Blues are gonna kill me!”

You will find yourself re-mortgaging your soul to the power of the six-string devil. You will strut like a rooster on viagra. You will find more natural blues than on any slap-headed Moby album. You will stand up and testify brothers and sisters that the blues is Number One! Hell yeah!


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