Jon Spencer Blues Explosion—

Released 1994 on Matador
The Seth Man, May 2022ce
When the trio of Judah Bauer (guitar), Russell Simins (drums) and Jon Spencer (guitar, theremin) assembled in the early nineties, they issued some fretfully deconstructed blues/punk albums until they took a stride into the unknown and came up with a whole new fountain of sleaze and uh, you know: they got really great from all those gigs and studying the blues and listening to Public Enemy on the tour vehicle until... Ladies an’ gennlemen, I present to you...


Refracted through a broken Elvis filter, playing Crypt Style Rock’n’Roll...uncorked, hi-octane...close to the bone and drippin’ sauce an’ all with a Theremin miked through a Marshall amp to great effect for action accents and general visceral fuckery, this three piece cut a slice of raw rock’n’roll in a silver sleeve and called it -- what else -- “Orange.” A shit-kicker deluxe and their best one, by far (with special mention going to FREEDOM TOWER NO-WAVE DANCE PARTY 2015 as the best album title of the 21st Century, so far) in terms of ass-hauling, groove-knitted beats with a dash of clash and a whole lotta class while all the time yielding a lexicon of sexed up, pumped up sleaze all up in heah. It’s got what it takes, and brother: it gives more than it takes. ‘Ram-Bunk-Shush,’ as The Ventures would call it, ‘Sen-Sa-Shun,’ as Freddie King would, and “Fukin’ Ass And Shin Kickin’” as they probably did. As well as “Finger Lickin’ Good” as the Good Colonel hisself always said and will say until the end of time or until the lone voice in the hen house drawls: “ain’t no one here but us chikkins” because this ain’t no crash course in brown nose bluesology, it’s a blueprint of a new print and luckily, it Rocks up a fucking storm in the process a-babybeh-ohh-yeuuggh!

Pussy Galore = then and: now = Honor Blackman. Which they did, by springboarding off the blues into a pool of garage oil, rockabilly grease, street disease, funk sweat, and carny rock’n’roll excitement. Street-/Wiseass, slicked back, stripped down, and ready for lurve, the JSBX (as nobody called ‘em back then) trimmed off the semiotic, concentrated on the music, and produced one rock’n’roll gloriosky of an album where every track mattered. Still do, as a matter of fact. YEAUUGH, babuh, all right!!

The album starts with “Bellbottoms” and works its way down from there with a stabbing, SUPER FLY-like string section opening up this cultural pile up deluxe galore. Is it lounge? Is it punk? Is it rockabilly? Is it...It strikes one as it doesn’t matter what it is because it sounds so damn good. Fuck genres, baby: that shit’s only good for country, reggae and porn. But whatever it is, it’s continuing like a blaxplotation soundtrack cut with a live rehearsal of a power trio going for broken and then stopping at inopportune moments to shout it all down with some loose talk about bellbottoms. And then power up again at full throttle all over again. Until it ends with the refrain /chant of the title. Class.

Gonna keep some of this as deconstructed as the album itself.

Is one great sweaty workout. The shouted, repeated proclamation of “GONNA DIG DAT DITCH!” gets punctuated with sax blasts, while everyone downstrokes their instruments as hard as possible to over-accentuate the fucker. Which they do repeatedly.

The video is hysterical. Saw it on MTV and it intrigued me so much that it made my toes curl up into a fist and made me throw down hard cash for it rightly soon afterwards. Also changed my IQ. In which direction I don’t know. (Yeah, it lowered it to 9,000, egghead.)
The call and response involves one of the voices screaming through an amplified harmonica.
There’s Jon Spencer hisself, promenading down a NYC street. Resplendent in silver suit, eating a yellow slab of pizza with, as he notes himself: “Crazy hair / anna wide lapels / Slack jaw kick ass…motherfucker!!!”
The big finish: a Theremin solo that inevitably heads everything into the drink while shit blows up in the video. Great.

“Very Rare” is an instrumental with, weirdly: organ playing that always sounds like something from the Tom Constanten school (specifically, from “New Potatoe Caboose”) which makes no sense but whatever. And with a resounding electric guitar doing that bass growl’n’prowl ain’t no way at tall it’s what you think it is.

Hammering. Thin and driving.
Runs through all the cities in the lower 48 he can think of...not least of all, his own number #1: “NEW YORK SIT-TAY!”
“Blues explosion…”

A super slow and drooly-drawled mid-tempo spot of relaxation with locked-in guitars that keep the slow, banished tracks on EXILE ON MAIN STREET that no one else likes and makes 'em their own.

The “Star Trek style” of “Orange” enters, equally as the languid blues portions of The Stones’ EXILE, once again.
The Blaxpoltation strings return. What is happening?!!
Picks up the center, with some super stun gun guitar and off-beats hit to hell.

Side two gets back on the road after gassin’ up and toppin’ off at the pump, kicking up a cloud of dust with “Brenda.” Complete with reiterated guitar scuz-strum and vocal call and response as well as the best hair pulling rendition of the name ‘Brenda,’ ever, it does like this:

Runnnununnnuun “C’mon”
Runnnununnnuun “C’mon”
Runnnununnnuun “C’mon”
Runnnununnnuun “C’mon”
Runnnununnnuun “C’mon”
Runnnununnnuun “C’mon”
Runnnununnnuun “C’mon”
Runnnununnnuun “C’mon...”


Swinging with all the swagger of ten pound balls in an six pound sack (and that ain’t carting around no blueballs, baybuh), “Dissect” is a bull in a china shop that takes it time, rounds corners purposefully slow in order to dislodge rows of Waterford crystal expectations and send them smashing to the floor. There weren’t a bass player in the Explosion, so somebody’s guitar got jacked in somewhere wrong and sounds alllllright with that killer fuzz growl that resounds like crazy.

“Play the blues, punk…!”


“Blues X Man”
The fuckin’ highlights include:
Russell Simins’ drums
Spencer screaming “I’M IN PAIN...!!!!” (to Greg Gleason, with whom I saw this crew with half a dozen times because it’s his fave line.)
Censoring edit that spins backwards for some reason.
“Doncha..wanna…Man like a…a Blues explosion man?!!!? Doncha???”

Opening up with a repeating vamp on Don Brewer’s drum opening of Grand Funk’s “We’re An American Band,” “Full Grown” blasts open with the memorable observation: “Baby, baby: you sure like to FUCK!”

“Man, I wanna dance!”
Stabbing and percolating e-clavinet episode.
“Make me feel so unnecessary...”


First off, “Flavor” has a rattling drum pattern that continues long enough for Spencer to “dedicate this song to Mr Gerard Cosloy” and second off: after the label boss gets props, then the band does. And then the genre they took their name from. And all the places they played. All of them, but maybe not Zap, North Dakota. All the major US cities. All of ‘em and then some: Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and Hattiesburg, Plattsburg, Pittsburgh, every other burgh and it goes on chugging...
“That’s why we’re number one!” Like it just dawned on him. Classic.
The group, not the genre, man! C’mon...
Out of nowhere, a groove offa a forgotten C-60 patched over a phone conversation.
“You got the flavor!”
“You got the flavor!”
It then cuts off.

The album is put to bed with the instrumental, “Greyhound.” Phlanged-to-fuck e-clavinet to make Sly Stone proud, the recording levels have crept up to distorto levels but as John Cale noted on the single of “Mercenaries”: ‘Vocal distortion intended.’ But seeing as this is an instrumental, you don’t gotta worry ‘bout that. Or anything else after you hear this album. Parts will gnaw through your memory, your consciousness, and yes -- even your underwear.

Groove and synth crawling over the groove until it cuts off like the C-90 ran outta tape on the good side. Like it did every damn time. All I can say in defense is...


I saw The Blues Explosion live seven times between December 1994 and 1996 and they were always erratic, never played the same set twice, and were fantastic. Exhilarating, full of energy and most of those shows felt like they could go on for hours. Six times in NYC and even once in Cambridge, Mass while dodging the eggheads and frigid temps blowing off the River Chas. I saw them a final time in May, 1998 and...It was over. It wasn’t bad but only had merged into something else. The show had already been cancelled, postponed, then rescheduled and when they finally showed up, it was oddly low key with some of the new material featuring (gasp) actual singing! Lord have mercy and furthermore: what the fuck?! Couldn’t figger out what. Spencer didn’t have the low Rod Evans intonations anymore. Fuck. What happened to all the rough-hewn nonsense flying apart at the seams?! Guess they got too literal with actually learning the blues instead of lighting a rocket off-out-into-and through the outhouse and let the shit fall where it may.

With that said, it was probably an off show. Hell, a year earlier they tore Australia a new one with THIS performance down under:

Ahh, but so what. It don’t matter. They left a trail of pumped up rock’n’roll with their shows, their songs, and their Crypt shit-kickin’ style rare for the mid to late nineties. And guess what/great thing is: they followed up ORANGE with a remix album that showed them to be well-suited for remix -- even if its only purpose was to leave their sweaty grooves and sawtoothed riffs flapping on repeat in the breeze. Even most of their recording since ’94 have kicked ass in major ways but they never nailed it so very squarely as they did on ORANGE.