We needed this. The excellent Jukebox Explosion, which collected all the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s singles, was released in 2007, and it was a serious boon for those who didn’t have access to turntables or decent record stores. What we didn’t have was a representative portrait of the insane mind-explosion wildness, shambolically combustible diversity, and bravado that could never be contained on a single album by the band. Each record was as different as the collective waste-oid mood that Spencer, Judah Bauer, and Russell Simins shifted. This massive 22-track set collects many of the group’s album tracks -- sequenced by Spencer -- that capture the entire range of the psychotic, roots-drenched roar that was JSBE. Spencer’s band was able to take roots rock, blues, R&B, and even funk and twist and turn them into something simultaneously ugly and irresistibly seductive. Check the opener, “Chicken Dog,” where, assisted by the great Rufus Thomas, they managed a Memphis rock & roll not heard since the Panther Burns' earliest days, pasted onto a two-chord riff and taut, slamming beat with a huffing bag's worth of airplane glue. It’s followed by “Magical Colors,” with Spencer vampirically hosting the ghost of Mick Jagger (à la Emotional Rescue) and marrying it to Memphis soul, slippery guitar, and bass riffs that the Rolling Stones are no longer capable of. Contrast this with the rage of “History of Sex,” from 1991, where punk rock and early Chicago blues hook up against a wall for some filthy fun in a glass-strewn alley on a sweat-drenched summer night. The polluted funk of “Afro,” from 1993, contains sampled flute sounds, a monolithic bass vamp, and a B-3 cranking over the wah-wah guitar. Spencer alternately croons and growls all but indecipherable lyrics before his ten-second guitar solo turns everything within earshot into nuclear waste. Check the clavinet funk in “Buscemi” and the use of strings in “Bellbottoms” for further evidence of murky devil funk and groove consciousness, where the beat is as big -- and real -- as the boast. “Shake 'Em on Down” is here in edited form from the A Ass Pocket of Whiskey collaboration with R.L. Burnside, as is “Love Ain’t on the Run” from the unholy union between JSBE and the Dub Narcotic Sound System. These songs are two versions of the blues that conjure the spirits of the Delta via misanthropic musi-erotic fantasies of forbidden unions in the dimly lit juke joints from Spencer and his mates’ collective imagination. Some see irony in JSBE's music. It's there but not because of amplified imitation; it's mockery of how far rock & roll had traveled from its origins. For ten years, JSBE gave indie rock, grunge, and everything that came after a gigantic, righteous middle finger. This big-slice reminder of that is exactly what we need in the 21st century when the wildness inherent in rock's backbone has all but utterly disintegrated.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek