The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Freedom Tower - No Wave Dance Party 2015

by Kevin Orton Rating:7 Release Date:2015-03-23

The latest from JSBX goes to show you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. And yet the one trick he knows never quite seems to grow old. Likezombie movies, JSBX keep coming at you and every time you cut them down, they pop right up and head straight for the juggular. 

'Funeral' shows that, at 50, Jon Spencer is not going into that good night without a dance party. True acolytes of the late, great James Brown, JSBX have never been about songwriting but the groove. And they always deliver.

Their latest reminds me of the musical equivalent of 'Flyguy' from I’m Gonna Get You Sucka. All pimped-out and ready for 1970. White hat, white suit, gold fish swimming around in white platform shoes. A walking anachronism of Funk Ephemera.   

The formidable 'Crossroad Hop' and 'Ballad of Joe Buck' remind me how much JSBX have been an influence on Jack White. Elsewhere, 'Do the Get Down, brings early Beck to mind, being JSBX at their most trip-hop. 'Dial Up Doll' summons up the spirit of Lux Interior and is an album standout along with the wicked 'White Jesus' urging, “Get off the stage”.

All goes to show there’s more going on between the ears than their usual horndog schtick. Speaking of which, 'Born Bad' is the epitome. 'Bellevue Baby' finds JSBX at their most barnstorming. 'Tales of Old New York: The Rock Box' sentimentally recalls the old days of CBGB through a rap-punk filter, ending on an abrupt note as if your tour guide were suddenly hit by a truck.

In many ways, Freedom Tower is one of JSBX’s most likeable and accessible albums. Stuff like 'White Jesus' and 'Bellevue Baby' are just as good as their mid-90’s peak, Orange. True, they don’t veer outside of their comfortable formula, but who wants to hear Jon Spencer croon a heartfelt ballad? While it might be a daring move at this point, it certainly wouldn’t be as much irreverent fun.

And true, you may have heard it all before. 'Funeral' sounds like a love child of 'Flavor' and 'Bellbottoms'. But really that’s what JSBX excels at more than anything, being JSBX. And no one could accuse them of being insincere about that. If you want depth go spin Scott Walker’s latest instead. 

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