The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were one busy little outfit in 1992; in their first full year of operation, the band managed to release two official albums (The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Crypt Style), two singles ("Shirt Jac" and "History of Sex"), and a widely circulated bootleg LP (A Reverse Willie Horton) when they weren't on the road playing anywhere and everywhere. As JSBX refurbish their back catalog for remastered reissue, Spencer has opted to assess their first year of record making with a compilation titled Year One, which combines the material from those three albums and two singles on one CD, rather than revamping them individually. Since there was a certain amount of overlap between the material on these releases, this makes sense, but though the first part of the album follows the sequence of A Reverse Willie Horton, otherwise this disc is separated into the product of two recording sessions that provided nearly all the material for those albums (the first 15 songs were done with Kramer in the summer of 1991, and another 20 were cut with Steve Albini later the same year). The new sequence doesn't match the feel of either the self-titled debut or the superior variant Crypt Style, but it rocks solidly and consistently throughout most of its run, which makes it a decided improvement over the debut album, if nothing else. This is ultimately as good a presentation of this material as we're likely to get, but it suffers from the fact this band was still finding its sound when they recorded all this stuff. The manic wail that was JSBX's trademark was already in place, but the warped but very real groove that would make them one of America's more exciting live acts in the '90s hadn't quite worked itself out, as Russell Simmins found his drum style, and the guitar interplay between Spencer and Judah Bauer would get a whole lot stronger by the time they recorded Extra Width. Year One is a thorough overview of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as they were starting to get good, but by its self-imposed constraints, it stops before they got great, which means it's valuable as history but not the best place to dive into their body of work.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming