The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Meat + Bone

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It's only fair to be wary of an album of new material from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion; after all, it's been eight years. There have been so many embarrassing reunions from virtually every corner of the rock & roll spectrum (the offending parties shall remain nameless) that a solid argument could be made for an enforced moratorium. Thankfully, JBSE's Meat + Bone proves the exception. The wild, cross-genre experimentation of 2002's Plastic Fang and 2004's Damage have been left in the desert wilderness of nostalgia in favor of back-to-basics dirty ass rock & roll, warped blues, and fractured funk. Spencer's gone back behind the production desk and doesn't muck things up even when he gets (a little) adventurous. He keeps reverb and fuzz up front, the guitars at earschplittenloudenboomer, and the drums miked to 11, and he doesn't worry about much else. "Black Mold" roars out of the gate with the blasted, speaker-shredding riffing of yore. That said, it merely sets the tone for a journey that's sweaty, loud, and proud. "Bag of Bones" morphs the primal 1969 Rolling Stones and Licensed to Ill-era Beastie Boys with surprisingly effective results. "Boot Cut" you've heard before--it's a shameless remake of "Bell Bottoms." It's the best cut here. "Get Your Pants Off" is guttersnipe funk that sounds like the Sonics playing James Brown. Things get loopy and whacked on "Bottle Baby," where power riffs, off-kilter rhythms, a lopsided bridge, shambolic, distorted production, and Spencer railing a stream-of-(un)consciousness rant serve grit and grease as a main course. "Black Thoughts" indulges itself in pure Rolling Stones worship, which is fine but not unexpected. "Unclear" is angular late-night blues, while "Bear Trap" is a sinister, howling rocker that would bring out Homeland Security if cranked to full volume. Thankfully, this whole 12-track mess clocks in at under 40 minutes. Meat + Bone may not restore faith in reunions in general, but it does prove that this burly trio has plenty of swagger and sloppy rock and roll left in them.

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