Pop albums: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Now I Got Worry Mute CDSTUMM 132

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
The shrill howl that introduces "Skunk", the opening track of the JSBE's new album, puts them right back on track following the unhelpful diversion of the Experimental Remixes album. That hapless stopgap compilation merely proved what was fairly obvious in the first place: that it is still impossible, to quote Little Richard, to "put a tuxedo on the funky blues". The metronomic beats and dismembered track-fragments of that project simply shattered the essential low-riding rockabilly-blues grooves that are the Blues Explosion's lifeblood.

Best, then, to view Now I Got Worry more as the follow-up to 1994's Orange, or maybe a companion piece to the backing-group job the Blues Explosion did earlier this year on bluesman RL Burnside's tremendous A Ass Pocket of Whiskey. There's little wasted space or compromise in this non-stop barrage of atonal blues grinds and psychobilly twang: even when the riffs seem at their most rudimentary, there's a focus and concision to the sound that belies the incoherent, apparently off-the-cuff nature of the songs.

Like The Cramps - whom they resemble most on springy rockabilly pieces like "Love All of Me" - the Blues Explosion dispense with the muddy bottom of bass, relying solely on Russell Simins's drums to drive the beat while Jon Spencer and Judah Bauer's razoring guitars slice the melody to bits over the top. "Rocket Ship", for instance, is little more than a tom-tom tattoo, a few invocations to "C'mon, wild child", and a smudge or two of slide guitar, while "Identify" is even more terse and toppy, a short, shrill surge of baffling punk fury. Only on the lowdown boogie raunch of "Chicken Dog" do they come up short, slipping momentarily into the riff of Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way" while their guard is down - though even here, there's compensation of sorts in the presence of R&B legend Rufus "Funky Chicken" Thomas, offering up yet another barnyard anomaly of dubious danceability.

Most of all, though, the Blues Explosion capture the authentic thrill of making simple, sloppy rock 'n' roll in an era ruled by the goose-stepping click-track and mostly given over to the corporatised, rote expression of youthful dissent. Ironically, the fact that it's often impossible to decipher what Spencer's on about in these songs gives them an enigmatic charge absent from the vast majority of pop and rock today.

Comments