The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Dirty Shirt Rock 'n' Roll

by Andy Brown Rating:9 Release Date:2010-07-23

Ladies and gentleman let me introduce to you the one, the only, the unstoppable, the most groovy Bluuuuessssss Exxploooosion! Yeah!...Jon Spencer is a pretty excitable chap - hollering, yelling, sneering and shaking his way through 22 of the Blues Explosions finest moments. Dirty Shirt Rock 'n' Roll includes tracks from their self-titled early 90s debut, through 1994s excellent Orange album and up to 2002 release Plastic Fang.

Much like that other great rock 'n' roll outsider Billy Childish, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion manage to tap into the primal, joyful and barley restrained spirit of rock 'n' roll and make it their own. There's a natural groove running through these tracks - a possessed, irresistible force even; a rhythm section as tight, loose and damn near perfect as you could hope for. It's there in the down and dirty riffs snaking through 'Train # 2' and 'History of Sex', in the lumbering swagger of 'Blues X Man' as the backing singers coo "Blues Explosion" and it's there in the stuttering blues of 'Leave Me Alone So I Can Rock Again'. Spencer struts and wails through the noise and it's a beautiful racket.

Perhaps the best track here comes in the form of 1994 single 'Bellbottoms'. First of all there's the unexpected string section, then those feverish guitars, incredible drums and joyous shouts of "Bellbottoms! Bellbottoms!" It's so huge sounding it borders on the ridiculous; Spencer does his best curled lip Elvis impression and it might just be about a pair of fashion-dubious trousers, yet it manages to be just about the most exciting, underappreciated rock track of the 90s. Elsewhere you get to enjoy the frantic clatter of 'Wail', the shimmering seduction of 'Magic Colours', the sexual funk of 'Afro' and the metallic blues-riff perfection of 'Chicken Dog' - it's a pretty faultless selection.

The band's sound hasn't stayed static either, from their early lo-fi punked-up blues-rock to their sonic experiments with hip hop producer Dan the Automator- the Blues Explosion have kept things fresh. While some of their later albums split fans down the middle, the pure rock 'n' roll thrills of the tracks representing those albums here can't be denied. So 'Flavor (remix)' and 'Talk about the Blues' have their fair share of hip hop moments and studio manipulation in amongst the blues riffs yet, unlike the cringe-fests they could have been, they actually work really well. Much like the previously mentioned madness of 'Bellbottoms', this band have a knack for taking seemingly inappropriate sounds and making them pure, unadulterated Blues Explosion!

The Blues Explosion live in a hyper rock universe- with Elvis Presley, Cadillac cars, the blues and bad booze mixing with punk rock, noise, (a bit of) hip hop and a whole load of good times. It's a mix that works well too - where the past and the future of rock 'n' roll collide you'll find The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion standing on the bar and playing like their lives depended on it. After this it's worth looking up A Ass Pocket of Whiskey their collaborative effort with blues legend RL Burnside, represented here by 'Shake 'Em on Down'. Then again, it's all pretty good, silence the doubters - it's a Blooooozzzee Expllllosion!

Best Tracks: 'Bellbottoms' 'Blues X Man' 'Flavor (remix)'

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