Pop: Shameless rock'n'rollers

JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION SHEPHERD'S BUSH EMPIRE LONDON
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The Independent Culture
JON SPENCER is the kind of man who simply won't let a lyric like "I'm gonna fall down on my knees!" pass without doing exactly that. Come encore time, he and his band have pulled every quivering, crotch-twisting, faux Elvis rock-legend stunt in the book, and probably invented a few besides. Scrawny guitarist Judah Bauer Leeters on the drum riser. Spencer, resplendent in spangly silver get-up, struts across the stage with his arms aloft, pausing only to molest the drum kit and pant like an old dog blessed with the fresh face of a lusty puppy.

That Spencer lives up to his self-proclaimed legendary status is refreshing enough in a musical landscape that is dominated by angst rock, sullen Brit-rock, and flabby progressive rock. Better still, he has all the musical chutzpah that is necessary to make his band more than some bogus mismatch of waifish, Brylcreemed cool and armadillos-in-their-underwear shamelessness.

Since ditching the splenetic excesses of the Eighties noise terrorists, Pussy Galore, Spencer has used the Blues Explosion to kick up a right rock'n'roll rumpus. Mixing blues, soul, funk, hip-hop and punk, they have made a promiscuous assault on any idea of musical history as being pure and sacred.

Their latest wily coyote of an album, Acme, is a deliciously ripe blend of new and old. At one extreme, it boasts the hot and drooling soul simmer of "Do You Wanna Get Heavy?". At the other, there's "Attack", a head-on collaboration-cum-collision with Alec Empire. For just two minutes, the Blues Explosion becomes the John Spencer Robo-Splurge.

Clearly, Spencer isn't all mouth and no trousers. He wastes no time on idle banter live, besides a frequent and oddly comical bawl of "Blooooze Explosion". His trousers aren't to be sniffed at, either. They are without a doubt the tightest leather deal in town. It would be churlish to knock a man who is prepared to strangle himself at the crotch purely for the sake of our entertainment.

Musically, the thumping bump and "Ooooh!" grind of "Talk About the Blues", and the milk-smooth and slinky "Magical Colours" are showstoppers. The absence of a bass player in the band keeps the guitar-tweaking of "High Gear" fleet-footed and urgent, like Beck with wings.

Any lapse in testosterone is compensated for by butch drummer, Russell Simins. Suspiciously dressed in a tastelessly shimmering blue shirt, he looks like he could double as the bodyguard for his two skinny compadres and he plays his kit with what can only be described as a homicidal intent.

Never mind that Spencer is a style criminal and a dodgy pimp of pastiche. As long as he plays this rock'n'roll lark like he really means it, and keeps roping in outsiders to keep it lively, the one genuine violation here is that this was the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's only British date.

Kevin Harley

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