The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion


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In the aftermath of Extra Width's success, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were drawing large crowds virtually everywhere they played. It both gratified them and made them suspicious. The track "Afro" on the previous album provided a clue as to the forthcoming no man's land JBSE would raucously explore. Orange is almost entirely new sonic terrain -- but it keeps the trio's trademark sweaty, musical terrorism and hedonistic rage up front. "Bellbottoms" kicks it off with a distorted two-chord guitar vamp, juxtaposed against strings worthy of the Love Unlimited Orchestra in full dramatic swell. Drummer Russell Simins meets Spencer and Judah Bauer's guitars with cracking snares and breaking beats, rolling them out like staccato machine-gun fire yet perfectly on the one. The sound feels like electricity actively coursing through the spine. Funk, hypnotic thrashing white-boy blues, and punk fistfight one another for dominance in a careening frenetic dance number that shakes the very foundations of rock & roll while defining its spirit. This is the liftoff point through the bravado of James Brown, the self-destructive gospelized pill-fueled hellish visions of Jerry Lee Lewis, the sheer exaggerated funk of blaxploitation soundtracks, and Saturday-night knife-fight juke-joint blues. "Ditch" melds the burn-it-down boogie of R.L. Burnside, the sloppy vibe of Exile-era Rolling Stones, the Cramps' demonic swagger, the rhythmic attack of the Meters, and the overdriven volume of the Stooges live. "Blues X Man" marries 12-bar back-country roadhouse blues and back-alley back-seat eros to Lower East Side boasting about the Blues Explosion's musical virility. It begins sparse and skeletal before adding a female backing chorus and DJ turntablism, turning traditionalism upside down and scraping country and city down to their nubs in order to make everything bleed. "Greyhound," the set's final track, rocks hip-hop drums and '70s rock guitars on stun that riff hypnotically and knottily; two-note vamps substitute for solos before the entire thing morphs into pure breakbeat cacophony and smears turntable scratches across the mix as it crashes out the door. Orange is the most commercially successful set JBSE ever turned in, but that's beside the point. In the 21st century, it sounds every bit as messed up, necessary, and frenzied as it did in 1993.

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