The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Damage

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Since the Blues Explosion -- who, as of this record, have officially dropped the "Jon Spencer" prefix from their name (the better to illustrate that they are a genuine band) -- have always been about the sound, power, and feel, not the song, it only makes sense that they work with a cornucopia of producers, mixers, and guest musicians on their seventh album, Damage. After all, they've done this before, particularly on 1998's Acme, which had one foot firmly in indie rock and one in the surging electronica of the day. It had loads of interesting sounds, but it didn't hold together. Damage, however, not only holds together, it finds the trio unexpectedly flourishing as a rock & roll band, a bunch of record-makers, and most surprisingly of all, songwriters. Underneath the whirlwind of sound, the Blues Explosion turn in some of their best songs, whether it's the diamond-hard "Burn It Off" -- one of their best-ever rockers -- or the moody, evocative neo-ballad "Crunchy," featuring suitably spooky and sexy vocals from former Tricky cohort Martina Topley-Bird. But what gives Damage a real kick is that each of the various producers -- whether it's the Blues Explosion's own drummer Russell Simins, journeyman Steve Jordan, or electronica daredevils Dan the Automator, David Holmes, or DJ Shadow -- has a distinctly different take on the band, soliciting muscular yet supple performances out of the trio, then putting the recording into hyperdrive on the final mix. Instead of contradicting each other, these different approaches are complementary, revealing a band that's more adventurous and visceral than its last handful of records led you to expect. Damage is their best record in years, proof that the Blues Explosion are the real deal, getting better with age just like any other blues band.

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