The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Talk About the Blues [US]

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Much like Acme, the album it was intended to promote, Talk About the Blues is a shining testament to the "too many cooks in the kitchen" principle. The list of musicians participating in these three songs reads like a Who's Who of indie and hip-hop cred: Calvin Johnson, Steve Albini, Dan the Automator, Kurt Hoffman, and Rick Lee are just a few of them, but their talents seem to cancel each other out. The choice to include so many all-stars on the single is indicative of the new direction the Blues Explosion went with Acme in 1998. The primal scream that opened Now I Got Worry, uncomfortably loud at any volume, has been converted on "Talk About the Blues" into a discrete, compressed nugget of sound, safe, to be sure, for mass consumption. The song, like the rest of this single, is a far cry from the attitude of previous Blues Explosion material. It is ironic then that Spencer's confession, "I don't play no blues, I play rock & roll" (which everyone already knew but was still waiting to hear), ultimately ended up on the single that seems to mark his departure from the whole (punk) rock sound and attitude. "Bacon" is perhaps the best the single has to offer, but primarily because its familiar-sounding string section invokes a profound nostalgia for Orange's "Bellbottoms." Overall, Talk About the Blues" is stronger on production than it is on ideas, which makes one wonder what exactly Calvin Johnson had to do with the whole thing.

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