The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Like many other bands, I'd heard a lot about the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, yet I'd really never heard that much at all by them. Some friends of mine had different albums by them that I eventually found in rotation at some point or another, but I'd never actually sat down and checked out an album from end to end. After listening to their disc (and the preceeding Acme release), I'm going to offer up a bit of point, counterpoint before I actually sit down and review the disc.
One of my initial reactions to listening to the music by JSBE! is that the lyrics range from simple to just plain silly. While I've read many a reviews where this is actually a criticism of their work, I think its something that instead links them with old rock bands (and when I say old, I mean when rock was just starting). Instead of beating around the bush and writing metaphorical lyrics and/or ones that sounded like poetry, the forefathers of rock and roll instead cut straight to the point and wrote about sex and partying (of course, it was in an extremely toned-down way, but we are talking about the forefathers here). JSBE! is like one of those founding rock and roll bands updated for the nineties both musically and lyrically. Instead of trying to come across above anyone else, they're just worried about rocking your lame ass and doing it in the fastest way possible. When Jon Spencer croons to his love about going out to the park and getting a hot dog, it results in a double-take, but that's really all he's asking. If you want in-your-face, check out "Lap Dance."
As mentioned in the song "Talkin' About The Blues" from the aforementioned Acme, Jon Spencer "Do not play no blues, I play Rock n' Roll!" Musically, the group does incorporate smidge amounts of blues into their songs, but they also incorporate the same amounts (or more) of garage rock, punk, surf rock, and hip-hop (moreso on this remix album). Their style is something I like to call "Junk Rock." It's music that's furious, sometimes fast and off-the-cuff, but with just the right amount of sloppiness to give it huge amounts of energy. It's a whole lot of music, too. Xtra Acme clocks in at almost 74 minutes with over 19 tracks.
After a great, almost funkdafied opening track of "Wait A Minute," the disc really kicks into gear with "Get Down Lover." The track feels somewhat disjointed as it rumbles along to a blistering chorus fueled with attacking drums and guitar, but it's the addition of a trumpet and saxaphone that liven things even more. It's all about getting down and sweaty. After a very slight reworking of "Magical Colors" from Acme, the strutting "Not Yet," and the short, goofy (replete with animal sound effects) "Get Old," the group does something a little different with "Bacon." While it doesn't sound a ton different, there is a nice string arrangement addition to the track that brings a nice backup.
After two more remixes (including a Jack Dangers (of Meat Beat Manifesto) reworking of "Blue Green Olga"), the group tears into the aforementioned "Lap Dance" with the vocal help of Andre Williams. It's a sleazy, rocking number perfect to go along with its title. Kicking out the jams once again, the group tears up things on the 13th and 14th tracks with the burning "Electricity" and "New Year." Soon, David Holmes completely bombs it up with "Talkin' About The Blues (For All The Saints And Sinners remix)." He gives the old track a sly beat, and intersperses the whole song with a sample of what sounds like a southern baptist preacher revving up his congregation. All you need to know is that it works. The disc closes out with a funny little hidden track that rips on groups like the Goo Goo Dolls and Garbage. After listening to both the discs side-by-side, I'd almost have to go with Xtra-Acme as the one I enjoyed more. While the styles change up on Acme nearly just as much, this disc is even more free-spirited, which is the essence of the group. If you've heard them before, though, you didn't need me to tell you that.