The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: “Bag of Bones”
Long before the Black Keys or The White Stripes, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was amping and warping the blues into a sweaty, punked-up version of its former self. Today, after a far-too-long, eight-year wait, the band is finally back with a brand new record called Meat and Bone.
Generalizations are always a dicey prospect (because there’s sure to be some Blues Explosion die-hards out there), but more than likely, you’ve heard The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion without ever really knowing it. The band does the very rocked-up theme song for Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel. The Blues Explosion was around way before you heard Spencer’s growl introducing a globe-trotting celebrity chef. Spencer formed the bass-less trio with guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins in the early 90s after the breakup of his former band, the scuzz-rocking Pussy Galore. The Blues Explosion released their self-titled debut in 1992. Produced by alt-rock maestro Steve Albini, the 20-track Jon Spencer Blues Explosion record has all the band’s hallmarks: Spencer’s exaggerated, howling vocals (equal parts Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Elvis and The Cramps) and anarchic riffs that suggest the blues more than they’re beholden to them. The Blues Explosion’s break came with the band’s 1993 record Extra Width. The album was groovier, and some of the band’s roughest edges were smoothed out without losing any of the punch. 1994′s excellent Orange and 1998′s Acme found the band incorporating strings (yes, strings) and, electronic touches into the cacophonous, bloozy mix. The band got a little swampy with 2002′s B-horror themed Plastic Fang.
Now eight whole years after the release of their 2004 record Damage, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are back with Meat and Bone. The first two singles off the record, “Black Mold” and “Bag of Bones,” are proof positive that the absence hasn’t diminished their abilities. The latter is our song of the day, and it’s The Blues Explosion at their Stonesy best. It’s got wailing harp, some really riffy guitar and swagger to spare. Spencer is in rare form, letting his his vocals fly like a juke-joint hoodoo-man. Even after two decades as a band, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are still grittier and greasier than groups with a quarter of that time together. They are the OGs of punked-up blues.