Friday, October 21, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 244 Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange

By: March

Album - Orange
Artist The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Key Players - Judah Bauer- guitar. Russell Simins – drums. Jon Spencer – vocals, guitar, theramin
Produced By – Jon Spencer and Jim Waters

Release Date – October 1994

What caused me to blow off the dust? - Jon Spencer is one of those artists where I seemingly have everything they have put out, but I hardly ever listen to for some reason. Mood music I guess. Figured I'd go with the one that planted the seed with me to begin with.

Overview – Formed in 1991 the New York City based band Jon Spencer Blues Explosion would blend various styles such as rock and roll, with punk, mix in some blues here and there and go on to release seven studio albums (so far). Their sound would be emulated by bands such as the White Stripes

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – The 13 song 44 minute album opens with the track “Bellbottoms”. The guitar are choppy across the top and seem to have a muted feel but Simins works his best to get the bottom rolling. There is a string section on this track that fills out the sound. There is is a lot of “yelling” on the track of “hooooo” while the band works to find their place. Spencer only speaks a few lines of lyrics. They also have a few moments where the track comes to a complete stop before coming back in. Spencer stops the track and tells us he needs to tell us about “bellbottoms” and they chant the line as Simins hammers away. Bauer and Spencer battle back and forth on the track and it winds to a rowdy conclusion. The band has fun with the jamming style of their play. “Ditch” has a cool southern feeling blues riff. Bauer and Spencer find the right tandem with one taking more of a bass line approach to the guitar while Si minis just smashes his crash cymbal over and over. The tempo is mixed allowing for the chorus to have this big guitar sound that mixes right enough buzz with a ringing guitar sound. There is a John Zorn like saxophone solo at the tail end of the track and a cow bell clunks in the right speaker seemingly from nowhere. We keep it buzzy and quick as “Dang” starts. Simins slowly starts to build this before a heavily distorted harmonica blows over. Spencer's vocals are heavily distorted as well as he shouts and seems to fight the harmonica. Spencer launches in to a theramin solo as the three seem to make this overwhelming wall of noise. We slow it down some as “Very Rare” finds a different low end. Simins drums are tight and clear on the track as Bauer and Spencer look to get things underway. Neither wants to really take off, and you can hear some of the early sounds that like minded artist Beck was using. This is an instrumental track and is a track showcasing their quirky and fun style. “Sweat” seems to fall under the blues tag for sure. Simins keeps the drums simple as Bauer and Spencer once again find a way to have one guitar go deep and swampy while the other wants to ring over it all, being cheery. “Cowboy” has a twangy but compressed vocal portion. The guitars again have that wonderful diversity and Simins is quiet at the start. The riff repeats and the song seems to try to gain some traction but takes a bit to get rolling. Over all the track has a cool vibe, but it doesn't seem to hold attention like others have. Title track “Orange” follows. Guitars are a little cleaner and Simins starts off with a simple and pointed drum line. Strings return and the track has a big sound while at the same time seeming minimalist. Simins gets up on this ride cymbal clanging out a great tempo as Bauer and Spencer take over once more. “Brenda” sounds like a garage/demo tape until Spencer starts to sing in his falsetto. Rhythmically the track is a little stagnant until the twin guitars do a little feed off one another. “Dissect” is also similar, with Simins beating the tom toms as Bauer and Spencer wrestle their guitars. Musically this track feels all over the map with odd time signatures, stoppages and then big monster riffs. It has it all one could say. Single guitar opens “Blues X Man” and then a second drops in the 12 bar blues riff. Spencer doesn't really sing, he speaks in Elvis Presley like “good evening/hello mama” style. Female vocalists sing the chorus of “blues explosion man!” adding a nice touch. “Full Grown” seems to have Simins off to the races. He seems to cut loose on the track at the intro, working his whole drum kit complete with cowbell. Bauer and Spencer sit back and let Simins have his way and get excited on the backing vocal yells. Guitars are seemingly hesitant to really get rolling, sitting back until the right time. Guitars are more pointed at the start of “Flavor” which features Beck. Simins punches a tight back beat that constrained as Spencer and Bauer again work in tandem. Both are going in two directions, but always seem to blend perfectly. Beck appears at the end of the track reciting some lyrics. “Greyhound” is the album closer a nice heavy sounding track with that wonderful deep guitar/high guitar mix that you'll either love or hate on the record. Being instrumental adds to it, the slow blues the frantic punk rock vibe is solid.

Where are they now? - The band is still active as a unit, but haven't released anything new in some time. In 2010 Spencer was quoted as saying the band was having fun playing live/touring and the chances of new material seemed a possibility. They did a large re-issue of their prior releases in 2010 as well. The three members are active in other projects, production etc. They are busy that is for sure.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I saw the band one time. December 8, 1998 at Avalon in Boston. Someone my buddy and I got upstairs to the “VIP” area and were able to view the show on the rail with no obstruction. It was a rowdy set, with the band really active and fun on stage. It seems like they don't tour as much these days, I'd see them again.

FDF Overall Take – First things first, if you are looking for a “blues” record I'd be hard to sell this to you as being such. The perception of what the “blues” is, is the cause for concern. The band dabbles in it for sure but a blues record I wouldn't classify it as. The band is accomplished for sure, blending various tempos and instruments. For a track that might be challenging to a new listener the next would have you curious as to how they did that. “Orange” is a good record to start with, overall I'd recommend it.

Official site here.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

You can track down the album here.


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