The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Meat And Bone

The Explosion return; the blues fails to notice.

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The irony, of course, is that when the blues finally exploded, the shrapnel barely touched Jon Spencer. After a decade of bawling, “Are you ready for the BLEEEEWS EXPLEYOSHEYUUUN!?!” through a tin can at the dusty pictures of Little Richard on his garage wall, when the White Stripes and The Hives sent exactly his kind of rip-snorting garage rock’n’roll stratospheric around 2002, Spencer came across as an old-guard bit-player struggling to snatch at the fleeting dues he’d bloodied his fingers and shredded his larynx all those years to earn.

In the fallout, with Jack White’s A-bomb blues detonation having failed to set off a chain reaction to trigger the Blues Explosion, Spencer updated his shtick by bringing in electronic mood sculptors David Holmes and DJ Shadow to produce on 2004’s Damage album, but it was too late – his own Big Bang had passed him by. To paraphrase Chris Morris berating Peter O’Hanraha-hanrahan on The Day Today, he’d lost the blues.

Aside from sporadic tours and a slew of rarities and compilation releases, the Blues Explosion have been in hibernation since, Spencer concentrating on his rockabilly project Heavy Trash with Madder Rose’s Matt Verta-Ray. But eight years on, Jon’s inner blues is erupting once more, and this time he’s pissed. ‘Yes, I’m here to bitch, complain and moan,’ he wails in Bottle Baby, a satire on crybaby alcoholic rock stars that depicts Spencer collecting an award for his services to rock. ‘Standing up here on the podium holding this fabulous statuette/I feel like a God but I still have a problem paying the rent.’

Meat And Bone, Spencer’s 10th album with the Blues Explosion, is wracked with such fuzzball fury, straddling the volcanic canyon between The Stooges and the Sex Pistols with a righteous, cocky entitlement – but, as was always Spencer’s downfall, little in the way of invention or memorable melody. Only the barnyard punk-country of Bag Of Bones, the punk Munsters of Strange Baby, the humorous anti-seduction of lounge-punk sneer Get Your Pants Off and the splashes of electronics and radio-tuning scree that give the album a loose thematic thread – like the whole thing is a filthy signal being received from Planet Bikersqueal – stand out.

The rest is a barrage of garage caterwailing that dates Spencer as a throwback to the early 00’s blues revival, when he could be exploring more adventurous strands of Tex-Mex blues alongside the Black Keys. His rebel vitriol still rages through Danger and Black Thoughts, but he’s caught in a blues implosion that’s crushing him to a speck.

Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont is a music journalist with almost three decades' experience writing for publications including Classic Rock, NME, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, Uncut and Melody Maker. He has written major biographies on Muse, Jay-Z, The Killers, Kanye West and Bon Iver and his debut novel [6666666666] is available on Kindle.