Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Meat and Bones - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Meat and Bones

by Alexander Segall Rating:5.5 Release Date:2012-09-17

If you're a fan of either The Blues Explosion or 'raw rock'n'roll', look away now. Meat and Bone is fairly dull. While there's a hint of blues, there's only one explosion, and then the rest is the fallout from the bomb-blast of 'Black Mold'. As an opener, it does the job almost too well - the solo guitar riff, the crashing chords, the incomprehensible vocals, and an interesting breakdown, which name-checks a bunch of jazz musicians (I caught Art Blakey and Ornette Coleman, so the song's probably a paean to the avant-garde rebels of black music, but with Jon Spencer, it's deliberately hard to tell).

Lo-fi is an understatement for The Blues Explosion; having based a career on sounding like an idealised garage band, even with access to a proper studio, they've wandered down a very blind alley of irrelevance. They're not fashionable anymore (not that that should be the driving factor behind a band's sound, but slavish adherence to a blueprint doesn't do art any favours - just rabid fans), they just play their thing, over and over again.

'Get Your Pants Off', 'Danger', 'Bottle Baby' and 'Black Thoughts' are, respectively, not very sexy, not very dangerous, only identifiably about alcohol when bottles clink at the end, and not particularly thoughtful, dark or mysterious. 'Ice Cream Killer' is probably the worst offender: not only was it completely unmemorable, it marked the point where all I could hear was the same, 1960s style 'space' effect, a sort of whooshing, bleeping noise more at home in an episode of The Jetsons than on nearly every track on this album.

There are some highlights, some saving graces to what is a placeholder of sweaty garage-punk mediocrity. 'Bag of Bones', the second of the one-two opening punch, sounds more like The Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Stooges than anything else here. 'Boot Cut' and 'Strange Baby' have something approaching decent guitar solos in their mid-sections, and 'Bear Trap' (despite seemingly being mixed at half the volume) was a solid 13th Floor Elevators-style groover.

Clearly, though, the standout track is 'Unclear'; a properly bluesy, almost pastiche-bluesy slice of groove that deserves a second listen. Quite simply, if the band ever releases a 'best of', this would be on there, unlike instrumental closer 'Zimgar', which feels tacked-on, rather than thought out. It comes down to this - no-one is going to buy this as an introduction to JSBE (you'd go for Orange or Extra Width) but long-time fans will be happy. For the insular world of the garage-punk veterans, this is the perfect record to return to after eight years of radio silence, but for the wider public, it's simply not worth the effort.

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