Howlin' Wolves: Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Plastic Fang

Scott Thill

Look blues rock straight in the eye, I dare you. "These wolves still have teeth, and they bite real hard."

After a pretty lengthy hiatus, I'd like to say that the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are finally ready to talk about the blues again, even if it's a particularly distorted brand of the genre, one recalling Exile-era Stones thankfully pumped as loud as possible through the shittiest speakers on God's green earth. Now for a related anecdote. "I don't play the blues, I play rock 'n' roll," Spencer enigmatically screeched while slamming Rolling Stone -- the slag mag not the group -- in "Talk About the Blues" on the band's last major release, Acme. Yeah, yeah, I know the contradictions are emerging after only two sentences into the review.

Welcome to the twisted world of the greatest blues band to never plays the blues. Kinda.

If you pull the disc out of the band's newest release, the oxymoronically titled Plastic Fang, and check the crimson-soaked pic beneath its place-holder, you'll get the idea of what to expect whenever you spin a JSBX nugget. There stands the shirtless, sweaty Spencer himself, jeans down far enough to show off his hairy ass crack, rocking the mike while Judah and Russell pump up the jam behind him. That's all you need ever think about when you think of the Blues Explosion: a refrigerator repairman's pants full of throbbing noise.

Plastic Fang's werewolf art. "JSBX has stumbled upon a potent motif for songs about screwing around on the wife."

Forget the genres, as Spencer and Co. have, and please (please, please!) forget about lumping the JSBX in with the Strokes and the White Stripes as have countless publications -- from the L.A. Times to -- looking to make the near-flawless Matador label some extra cash. Concerned more with turning out callous-inducing, skin-tight jams than offering color-coordinated, lo-fi blues noise or digging up a CBGB past -- Bloomingdale's punk shirts and all -- that they, unlike the Strokes, were perhaps alive to witness, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are interested in only one thing: rocking and not giving a shit what anyone else, especially themselves, calls it. If you're not a devotee yet, you don't need simulacra to clue you in to where the originals lie buried.

Especially since the JSBX are no originals themselves, and they'll probably be the first to admit it. Pilfering hardcore blues and rock 'n' roll hooks found everywhere from blues legend John Lee Hooker to punk vets X, the Blues Explosion has always carried a nuclear punch more in its re-presentation of everything that they've been banging through their stereos the last few decades than in original concepts they've spent years of their lives constructing. What has made them stand out over the fifteen or so years they've been destroying stages across America is a striking tightness and energy, whether it be in their kinetic musical synchronicity, their dry throat-inducing live shows, or their relentless riffing.

The best bar band in the universe. "Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are interested in only one thing: rocking and not giving a shit what anyone else calls it."

Witness the heat-seeking missile called "Money Rock 'N' Roll," Plastic Fang's best track by far, which sounds like it was lifted right out of Elvis Presley's grave with his bones still stuck to it. A thunderous stomp filled with dynamic tempo shifts, Spencer's best Bo Diddley rhyming, Bauer's precise but dirty riffing, and Russell Simins' frenetic pounding, the tune is a blistering no-frills jam whose only subject matter is -- you got it -- rocking.

That's usually the case for JSBX -- unless, as in the band's finest release, Orange, they're just singing about themselves. And the trend more or less continues throughout Plastic Fang. "Sweet and Sour" -- whose intro recalls Orange's immortal "Bell Bottoms" -- is a bracing toe-tapper that implores, "Won't ya rock 'n' roll?" Of course, louder than that sentence did. "Hold On" cruises over a similar bottom-soaked, static-filled funk, preceded by the sounds of barhoppers yapping and drinking as if the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion just hopped onstage at the local dive and started ripping shit up. And what a band, too -- "Hold On" features the legendary Dr. John laying down some of his own meaty servings while Parliament Funkadelic alum, Bernie Worrell, adds the mesquite flavoring on the organ.

I'll have what they're having.

If Plastic Fang does carry a common denominator -- other than the desire to have a blast playing and listening to some of the most straight-ahead rock 'n' roll the way it was meant to be played -- it would be Spencer's continual reliance on the werewolf metaphor to explain everything from sexual infidelity to acknowledged guilt or wrongdoing. "I am the ugly one, a monster that feels no pain/I got a life without hope/Because I messed around with three young lives/Forgive me," he laments variously on "Killer Wolf," a song whose dark undertones betray a grievous injustice done to someone. Same goes with "She Said," where Spencer links the werewolf specifically with infidelity -- "She said you done your baby wrong and you know you're gonna die tonight/Now the villagers are coming with their pitchforks and their screaming dogs." There's plenty more to choose from; with titles like "Midnight Creep," "Mean Heart" -- remember where those bad wolves take their fatal silver bullets? -- "Down in the Beast," as well as artwork featuring B-movie or comic book monsters and damsels in distress, the JSBX has stumbled upon a potent motif for songs about screwing around on the wife.

After all, where do you think the term "rock 'n' roll" came from?

Of course, you always have to take anything Spencer sings about with a grain of salt -- or less -- mostly because the blues/rock genre's finest offering to mainstream music has always been such garish tales of love, er, I mean sexual urges gone wrong. Plus, the guy is married to alterna-babe Cristina Martinez of Boss Hogg and (kinda) Pussy Galore fame (both of which featured Spencer on guitar) so it's doubtful he's been running around behind her back. She'd outright kill his ass.

No, more likely than not, the JSBX hooked up with a veteran rock 'n' roll producer -- Steve Jordan, who's helmed projects for Keith Richards and the Blues Brothers (!) -- and veteran rock 'n' roll imagery to help fashion this latest model of their no-holds-barred, traditional rock throwdowns. And, of course, everything's working fine. Although they've left the more fractured, splintered punk behind in favor of standard blues rock riffs, make no mistake about it -- these wolves still have teeth, and they bite real hard.

Scott Thill -- a media fanatic who finds the time to write on everything that does not include the words "boy band" -- is a gainfully employed dotcom editor currently finishing his first novel, The Dangerous Perhaps.




Mute Tonträger ARTISTS 28-Sep-2003


The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Diesen drei schrägen Vögeln in 70er Jahre-Hemden mit ausgestelltem Kragen, Zuhälter-Leder-Jacken und ebensolchen Schuhen verzeiht man es sogar, wenn sie sich an der heiligen Kuh "Blues" vergreifen, sie auf dem Altar, der da Bühne heißt, mit dem geheiligten Messer "Feedback" opfern und dadurch Neues entstehen lassen. Daß sie damit oft näher an den Wurzeln des Blues liegen als die ungezählten Gitarren-Virtuosen des gepflegten Bluesrock, liegt da wohl auf der Hand. Nicht umsonst spielte die Jon Spencer Blues Explosion mit R.L. Burnside ein Album ein, und gelten die verdammten Seelen von Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown und John Lee Hooker als Quell ihrer Inspiration.

Man schrieb das Jahr 1990, als sich Sänger und Gitarrist Jon Spencer, Drummer Russel Simins und Gitarren-As Judah Bauer auf den Weg machten, dem Blues neues Leben einzuhauchen. So wie beim Punk immer klar war, daß Rock'n'Roll die Wurzel ist, und es nicht darum ging jenen zu zerstören, sondern ihn nur von seiner Erstarrung und Formelhaftigkeit zu befreien, ihm das, was ihn ausmacht, zurückzubringen, pure Energie als Lebenseinstellung ohne Wenn und Aber, so war dies auch für die Jon Spencer Blues Explosion klar, was den Blues angeht.

Eine Reihe von LPs voll glühenden, kurz vor der Explosion stehenden Songs legten im Laufe der Jahre Zeugnis ab von der Verfeinerung ihres Stils, ohne dabei an Intensität zu verlieren.

Daß die Jon Spencer Blues Explosion nicht nur auf ihren Alben eine ganz heiße Nummer sind, sondern die Intensität ihrer Live-Auftritte schon oft das Leben junger Männer in völlig andere, neue und ungeahnte Richtungen veränderte, hat sich mittlerweile auch schon herumgesprochen. Wer also noch nie auf einem ihrer Konzerte war, sollte unbedingt hingehen, wenn Mr. Spencer mit seiner Band in der Nähe gastiert. Vielleicht wird auch sein Leben in ungeahnte Bahnen geraten.

Auf ihrem neuen Album "Plastic Fang" kombiniert die Blues Explosion erneut in brillianter Weise die schweißtreibendsten Elemente aus Funk, Blues, Gospel und Rock mit den fast schon klassischen Stakkato-Riffs Jon Spencers und Judah Bauers und dem präzise-groovenden Schlagzeugspiel von Russel Simmins. Unterstützt wurden sie bei den Aufnahmen diesmal u.a. von Funklegende Dr. John (!!!), Funkadelic-Keyboarder Bernie Worrel sowie Elliot Smith. Produziert wurde "Plastic Fang" von Steve Jordan, der in seiner langjährigen Karriere bereits mit so unterschiedlichen Größen wie Sonny Rollins, Bruce Springsteen oder D`Angelo zusammengearbeitet hat. Unglaublich.

Am 31. März 2002 spielten Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in der Philipshalle (Düsseldorf) anläßlich der 18. Osterrocknacht (Rockpalast).

Weitere Tourdaten der Jon Spencer Blues Explosion findet Ihr hier.

Hier gibt's zwei Titel von "Plastic Fang" als Realaudio-Files:

"Sweet N Sour"  ...anhören...
"She Said"  ...anhören...

Artist Homepage:

Neue EP "Shakin Rock & Roll Tonight" (VÖ: 28.10.02)

Released on CD only, 'Shakin' Rock 'N' Roll Tonight' comes backed with exclusive mixes of album tracks by Barry Adamson and Techno Animal; live video clips from their recent sold out Brixton Academy and 100 Club dates plus the Director's Cut of Floria Sigismondi's video for recent single 'She Said'.

CD Tracklisting
Shakin' Rock 'N' Roll Tonight (Album version)
Over And Over (Techno Animal Mix)
She Said (Tremelo Beergut Mix)
Money Rock 'N' Roll (Sub Species Mix)
Over And Over (Barry Adamson Mix)

plus the following video clips:
Point of View - Live from Brixton Academy
She Said - Director's Cut (Dir: Floria Sigismondi)
Shakin' Rock 'N' Roll - Live from Brixton Academy
She Said - Live from the 100 Club

Single "Sweet & Sour"

"Sweet & Sour" heißt die neue Single der Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, sie ist am am 24. Juni erschienen. Allen Fans sei sie ans Herz gelegt: Die Single enthält neben dem Live-Knaller "Sweet & Sour" auch die zwei unveröffentlichten Stücke: "Maureen" und "Alex".

Wir raten dringend zum Gang in den gutsortierten Plattenladen.

Spex März 2002 - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

In der aktuellen Ausgabe der Spex könnt Ihr nachlesen, wie es der Jon Spencer Blues Explosion und Rocco Klein auf ihrem dreitägigen Spaziergang durch New York erging. Und wenn Ihr mehr über das neue Album wissen möchtet, dann lohnt sich der Gang zum Kiosk erst recht!

Pressestimmen zum Konzert am 02.02.2002 im Gebäude 9 (Köln):

MusikExpress / April 2002 - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

The King of Cool hat einen Namen: Er heißt Jon Spencer und kommt wie eh und je aus New York.

Jon Spencer fragt, das Publikum antwortet nicht. Macht aber nichts. Die Menschen im Auditorium sind auch so bereit für die Dinge, die da so sicher kommen werden wie der Abstieg des 1. FC Köln und am besten unter einem schön laufenden Alliterationsmonster zusammengefasst werden können: rau, roh und rebellisch. Jon Spencer ist in der Stadt, er ist wie immer sehr lässig, ohne betont lässig sein zu wollen, der Mann trägt, ebenso wie seine Mitstreiter Judah Bauer und Russel Simins, eine schwarze Tapete - und der Mann sieht, im Gegensatz zu Gitarrist und Schlagzeuger, unverschämt gut aus und versprüht locker aus den Hüften das, was unter Rockisten selten bis nicht existent ist: Glam. "We're the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, always from New York City", sagt der Chef, und dann macht das Trio alles, was ein Trio nur machen kann. Und vor allem: keine Kompromisse. Beim Erzeugen wohlfeilen Krachs zum Beispiel. Bei seiner gekonnt dahingerotzten Art, Schnörkellosigkeit de Luxe verbreitend. Und selbstverständlich auch bei der zweifellos alles andere als leichten Aufgabe, ohne jegliches Posing echten Männerschweiß und echten Bierdunst eins werden zu lassen. Die Blues Explosion spielt Songs von ihrem demnächst erscheinenden Album "Plastic Fang", und die sind so wie die meisten Songs der Band: dezent, im archaischen Blues geerdet, aber Gott sei Dank nichts für Walter Trout- und Gary Moore-Fans. Wenn Jon Spencer sich etwas vom Blues, aber auch vom Soul und Punk - hallo Stooges! - ausborgt, wird die Kombination dieser Referenzen trittsicher über den schmalen Grat zwischen postmoderner Dritt- und Viertverwurstung und Authentizität im Hier und Jetzt geführt. Was nur halb so geschwollen klingt wie's schlussendlich gemeint ist. "We don't play no blues, we play rock'n'roll", nennt Jon Spencer das - und da hat er verdammt Recht. Einwände, der Rock, wie ihn die JSBE auf die Bühne bringt, sei nicht eben variabel, sind spätestens bei "Shakin' Rock'n'Roll Tonight" fürs Erste ad acta gelegt und spätestens mit dem nächsten Bier tutti completti weggespült. Es gilt uneingeschränkt: Wenn es nicht rockt, isses für'n Arsch. Für'n Arsch war also bei diesem Gig gar nichts, dennoch hatte der Abend im Gebäude 9 einen entscheidenden Makel: Jon Spencers extrem gutaussehende Gattin Christina Martinez, Frontfrau von Boss Hog, war nicht vor Ort; einer musste schließlich aufs gemeinsame Kind aufpassen. Schade natürlich, aber wahrscheinlich besser so. Zu solch einem gerütteltem Maß an Rock auch noch eine perfekte Rock Bitch zu erleben, das hätte so manchen heterosexuell veranlagten Mann dann doch womöglich längerfristig aus den Latschen gehauen.

Martin Weber

Visions Nr. 108 / März 2002 - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Der Abend wird die Konzert gewordene Antwort der Blues Explosion auf "Ben Hur" werden, ein Monumental-Konzert in drei Akten. Über zwei Stunden lang (!) auf die Zwölf. Ausverkauft und ROCK. Vor einigen Monaten kursierten aufwühlende Bilder von Jon Spencer mit Vollbart und Jesus-Mähne im Netz. Diese kurze Verirrung scheint offenbar schon wieder beendet. Als Souvenir aus dieser Zeit hat er sich allerdings noch imposante, flokatiartige Buschel-Koteletten im Gesicht bewahrt. Ertser Akt: Über 60 Minuten ausschließlich neue Stücke vom kommenden Album "Plastic Fang". Durchaus eine Herausforderung fürs Volk, das sich offensichtlich wünscht, auch mal mit Vertrautem gerockt zu werden. Neue Songs wie "Money Rock'n'Roll" swingen zwar gar prächtig, aber selbst der Band merkt man an, dass das alles noch weitgehend unvertrautes Neuland für sie ist. Band und Publikum bleiben dennoch entspannt, Spencers Elvis-Faktor aber weit unter 50 Prozent. Dann plötzlich der Abgang von der Bühne. Konzertende? Das Volk verwirrt, Rufe nach Zugabe eher spärlich. Die Band kommt trotzdem zurück und lacht wissend. Zweiter Akt: Noch mehr neue Stücke! Aber Spencers Lächeln ist anzusehen, dass hier noch Raum für Explosionen ist. Danach - dritter Akt - geschieht etwas Eindrucksvolles: Das erste bekannte Stück! Die Band schlüpft hinein wie in einen Maßanzug. Plötzlich stimmt jede Pose. Spencer wandelt sich innerhalb von Sekunden vom Musiker zum Showman. Der Elvis-Faktor schnellt hoch in den roten Bereich. Das Volk rockt, das Theremin jault. "I don't play no blues. I don't play no rock'n'roll. I play… something NEW!". Noch eine Dreiviertelstunde Best Of. Das war es, was jeder wollte. Resümee: Keine Sorge! Sie können's noch! Und die neuen Stücke werden auch schon bald alte Bekannte sein.

Carsten la Tendresse

WOM-Journal Nr. 211 / März 2002 - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Der typische Spencer-Fan ist Anfang 30, breitschultrig, trinkfest und zumeist Single. Die wenigen Frauen, die sich ins Gebäude 9 verirren, müssen sich notgedrungen mit dem Anblick der Deckenbeleuchtung begnügen. Wer sich nicht wagemutig nach vorn drängt, bekommt den schmächtigen New Yorker nicht zu sehen. Ärgerlich, zumal Spencer sein siebtes Album PLASTIC FANG vorstellt, das zwar erst im April erscheint, als Promotion-Maßnahme aber gleich dem Volk vorgestellt wird - in einem stickigen Club, der ohne Ankündigung ausverkauft ist. Kein Kunststück, denn Spencer zählt seit frühen Noise-Eskapaden mit den kultisch verehrten Pussy Galore zu den besten Live-Performern im Rock'n'Roll-Zirkus. Ein Typ mit schwarzen Klamotten, dicken Koteletten und John Cusack-Look, der eine altmodische Rickenbacker spielt und unverhülltem Retro frönt. Mit Russel Simmins (Drums) und Judah Bauer (Gitarre) zelebriert er einen ungestümen Mix aus Rock'n'Roll, Blues und Soul. Eine Hommage an Howlin' Wolf, MC5, Stooges, Stones und Cramps. Rau, brutal, ungeschliffen und mit kitschigen Texten über heiße Bräute, dicke Autos, wilde Draufgänger und romantische Outlaws. Spencer lebt den Mythos, und er macht ihn zur Mission. Schon seit zehn Jahren ist er mit der Blues Explosion on the Road, hat es aber nie über verrauchte Clubs und fünfstellige Verkaufszahlen hinaus gebracht - und geht trotzdem in seinem Element auf. Da paaren sich Klassiker wie "Flavor", "Wail" oder "Afro" ungeniert mit neuen Songs. Wo Spencer draufsteht, ist nämlich auch Spencer drin. Eine verlässliche Angelegenheit. Genau wie die Tatsache, dass man als Besucher anschließend in irgendeiner schäbigen Bar abstürzt. Jon Spencers Authentizität ist ansteckend.

Marcel Anders



Extra Width Extra Width - May 93 - Re-Release Feb. 00

Afro, History Of Lies, Back Slider, Soul Letter, Soul Typecast, Pant Leg, Hey Mom, Big Road, Train #2, In side The World Of The Blues Explosion, The World Of Sex includes bonus album mo' width Afro, Out Of Luck, Cherry Lime, Rob K, Ole Man Trouble, Wet Cat Blues, Johnson, There Stands The Glass, Lion Cut, Beat Of The Traps, Memphis Soul Typecast.
DBL Vinyl - Jsbx 1
CD - Jsbx 1 CD
Orange Orange - Oct. 94 - Re-Release Feb. 00

Bellbottoms, Ditch, Dang, Very Rare, Sweat, Cowboy, Orange, Brenda, Dissect, Blues Explosion Man, Full Grown Woman, Flavor, Greyhound enhanced CD includes videos for: Bellbottoms, Dang, Flavor.
DBL Vinyl - Jsbx 2
CD - Jsbx 2 CD
Experimental Remixes Experimental Remixes - May 95 - Re-Release Feb. 00
Bellbottoms, Flavor Part 1, Flavor Part 2, Soul Typecast, Greyhound Part 1, Greyhound Part 2, Tour Diary, Implosion, Explo, Blues "XXX" Man.
DBL Vinyl - Jsbx 3
CD - Jsbx 3 CD
Now I Got Worry Now I Got Worry - Sep. 96

Skunk, Identify, Wail, Fuck Shit Up, 2Kindsa Love, Love All Of Me, Chicken Dog, Rocketship, Dynamite Lover, Hot Shot, Can't Stop, Firefly Child, Eyeballin, R.L. Got Soul, Get Over Here, Sticky.
Vinyl - Stumm 134
CD - CD Stumm 134
Acme Acme - Oct. 98

Calvin, Magical Colors, Do You Wanna Get Heavy?, High Gear, Talk About The Blues, I Wanna Make It All Right, Lovin' Machine, Bernie, Blue Green Olga, Give Me A Chance, Desperate, Torture, Attack.
Vinyl - Stumm 154
CD - CD Stumm 154
Acme Plus Acme Plus - Sep. 99

Wait A Minute, Get Down Lover, Confused, Magical Colors (31 Flavors), Not Yet, Get Old, Bacon, Blue Green Olga (Remix), Heavy (Remix), Lap Dance, Right Place Wrong Time, Leave Me Alone So I Can Rock Again, Soul Trance, Electricity, New Year, Chowder, T.A.T.B. (For The Saints And The Sinners Remix), Hell, I Wanna Make It Alright (Zebra Ranch).
DBL Vinyl - Stumm 184
CD - CD Stumm 184
Plastic Fang Plastic Fang - Apr. 02

Sweet N Sour, She Said, Money Rock 'N' Roll, Killer Wolf, Tore Up & Broke, Hold On, Down In The Beast, Shakin' Rock 'N' Roll, Tonight, The Midnight Creep, Over And Over, Mother Nature, Mean Heart.
DBL Vinyl - Stumm 199
CD - CD Stumm 199
LCD - LCD Stumm 199


2 Kindsa Love 2 Kindsa Love - Oct. 96

7" - 2 Kindsa Love, Lets Smerf. CD - 2 Kindsa Love, Fish Sauce, Cool Vee.
7" - Mute 202
CD - CD Mute 202
Wail Wail - Apr. 97

7" - Wail Video Mix, Judah Love Theme, Radio Spot. L7" - Wail Mario Mix, Flavor Live. CD - Wail Video Mix, Yellow Eyes, Buscemi, Turn Up Greene.
7" - Mute 204
CD - CD Mute 204
Magical Colors Magical Colors - Nov. 98

7" - Magical Colors, Confuse. CD - Magical Colors, Bacon, Get Down Lover.
7" - Mute 222
CD - CD Mute 222
Talk About The Blues Talk About The Blues - Nov. 98

7" - Talk About The Blues, Wait A Minute. 12" - Talk About The Blues (For The Saints And The Sinners Remix), Lovin' Machine (Automator), Calvin (Zebra Ranch). CD - Talk About The Blues, Lovin' Machine (Automator), Calvin (Zebra Ranch), Talk About The Blues (For The Saints And The Sinners Remix). enhanced cd includes video for Talk About The Blues.
7" - Mute 226
12" - 12 Mute 226
CD - CD Mute 226
Heavy Heavy - Aug. 99

7" - Heavy (Remix Radio Edit), Give Ya Some Hell. 12" - Heavy (Remix Radio Edit), Attack (Detroit), 2 Kindsa Love (Duck Rock's 105.9 FM Final Mix), Do You Wanna Get Heavy? (Duck Rock Hip N' Bass Final Mix). CD - Heavy (Remix Radio Edit), 2 Kindsa Love (Duck Rock's 105.9 FM Remix), Do You Wanna Get Heavy? (Duck Rock Hip N' Bass Remix), Attack (Detroit).
7" - Mute 239
12" - 12 Mute 239
CD - CD Mute 239
Techno Animal Remixes Techno Animal Remixes - Feb. 00

12" - Bacon (Radio Edit), Not Yet (Sci-Fi Mix), Bacon (Dub), Not Yet (Splatter Mix).
12" - 12 Jsbx 4
She Said She Said - Mar. 02

7" - She Said (Edit), Ghetto Mom. CD - She Said, Point Of View, Do You Wanna Get It?. LCD - She Said (Edit), Then Again I Will, Like A Bat.
7" - Mute 263
CD - CD Mute 263
LCD - LCD Mute 263



Current Release
Plastic Fang + Fang Visual
ole-558 CD + DVD
Street Date: 09/10/02

She Said video
Mailing List

While the Vatican of Rock spans a wide range and often worships false idols, Jon Spencer and his Blues Explosion are particularly soulful pontiffs. Plastic Fang was recorded at Manhattan’s Oorong Sound, with Steve Jordan (producer) and Don Smith (engineer). Their combined experience includes time spent with The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and countless other rock pioneers. [...]

02/03/03 the latest
Following last week's shows at New York's Bowery Ballroom, the Blues Explosion are currently on a headlining tour of the UK, including a show at the South Bank's Royal Festival Hall commissioned by Mojo Magazine. Said gig will feature a genuine throwdown between the band and soul legend Solomon Burke.

There's a great story about James Brown once paying Solomon Burke to bail on his half of a double bill, but we all know that Jon Spencer is not likely to shirk from a challenge or a collaboration (and besides, he doesn't carry around that much cash).

You can catch JSBX in their first network TV appearance ever when they appear on NBC's 'Last Call With Carson Daly', Tuesday February 4 at 1:30 am (EST).

09/05/02 hitting the road (and the road hits back)
We cannot urge you strongly enough to attend the forthcoming JSBX shows (with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars) because if you don't, not only will you miss out on the season's hottest rock'n'roll event, but we'll never speak to you again. We're cutting you off. For good. No more bulk e-mails or free DVDs or late-night phone calls. "Plastic Fang" + free bonus DVD is out soon and we're getting a little tired of being so nice about things.

Plastic Fang + bonus DVD
as part of our continued attempts to show everyone who doesn't already love the Blues Explosion to death that they are totally missing the boat, we're re-releasing the 'Plastic Fang' CD on September 10 with a free DVD shrinkwrapped to it as a free bonus. The disc includes the promotional videos for "She Said" and "Sweet and Sour", along with performance and interview footage from places far and wide --- some seriously crazy stuff, after watching this DVD you might wonder why certain TV programs have neglected to book this band (possibly for fear of making all subsequent musical guests look lame by comparison). 'Fang Visual' has its own slipcase sleeve. (UPDATE: NOW SOLD OUT IN BOTH VERSIONS! CHECK THE STORES!)

If you already own Plastic Fang, you can get it for free by ordering the separate version from the Matador website store along with ANY OTHER ITEM from the store. These will ship mid-to-late August, so that people are assured of getting it before it's in stores (the shrinkwrapped version will still only ship on September 10 if people order it from the website).

We've already heard the odd complaint here and there that Matador is somehow rewarding people who are johnnie-cum-latelys and dissing serious JSBX fans who bought the album right when it came out. And while we're sorry anyone feels that way, we hope everyone understands that this is a particularly ambitious plan on our part to try and get more people to check the band out. Anyone who already owns 'Plastic Fang' doesn't need a cheap trinket from us to make them feel special --- if you already know that the Blues Explosion rule, spare a thought for all the persons less enlightened than yourself that we're trying to reach. Pray for them. If you're not into prayer, at least you can console yourself with the knowledge that "one nation under god" is no longer permissible as part of the pledge of allegiance in public schools.

ok, other than that, check the tour dates section for details about the Blues Explosions's autumn trip with support from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Liars.

07/03/02 new dates this fall
we implore you to check the tour dates section for upcoming Blues Explosion dates ; the planet's finest live band are hitting the road in autumn with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Liars in tow. Have a peek at Mute's JSBX site to see a quicktime clip of the excellent new "Sweet N Sour" video.

06/07/02 New Video
a mind-blowingly great animated video for the Blues Explosion's "Sweet & Sour" will be up on this site very soon, around the same time that Mute will be releasing a 7" and CD single of the same incindiary track. Jon, Russell and Judah just completed a killer US tour and they'll be back on the road this autumn with support from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Liars.

05/08/02 Plastic Fang Contest Winners
The winning entries are now on site. Thanks to everyone who entered and stay tuned for more Matador giveaways in the near future.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Improving Late Night Television and Other Mediums
The biggest news around here since the Manhattan Deli went out of business is that the Blues Explosion will be the musical guests on “Last Call With Carson Daly” on June (watch this space for the exact date). For our Canadian friends, the band will also be performing on “Open Mike with Mike Bullard” on May 14.

The band are winding up a European tour this week, and then begin their US run in Washington DC on April 24. West Coast residents have faith, the band will be heading your way later in the summer, but for now they will be laying waste to the East Coast and Midwest.

For those cable & satellite dish owning families with MTV2 or MuchMusic access, keep your eyes peeled for the insanely cool new video for “She Said” directed by Floria Sigismondi. The “She Said” video is on the Matador site now, along with a video interview with the band and an MP3 of “Do You Wanna Get It” which is one of the 4 songs that is only available on the deluxe vinyl LP version of Plastic Fang.

For those of you anxiously awaiting the results of the recent Blues Explosion swag contest, we’ll be announcing the winners on the site early next week. We got a few more entries than we expected and it’s taking a day or two to get through them.

“She Said” video
The video for “She Said” is now online in the music & video seciton.

Contest Time!
We’re giving away limited editions of both the CD & vinyl, t-shirts, signed photos, stickers, and VHS copies of the “She Said” video. All you have to do is enter and write us a horror story.

Video Interview
Los Angeles, CA, March 2002. The Blues Explosion talks about the upcoming release and the wonders of Listerine Strips.

03/21/02 She Said (not the Cramps, Beatles or Scratch Acid song)
“She Said” is the first video from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s new album, ‘Plastic Fang,’ and following filming in Toronto last week, the clip is nearly ready for public consumption on the Matador site and other lucky outlets. Classic videos are nothing new for the Blues Explosion but this might be their best to date. Check the tour dates section for upcoming ‘Plastic Fang’ shows. Excerpts from a video interview with the band, conducted prior to their gig at LA’s El Rey Theatre on March 11, will be available on this site shortly.

02/12/02 After a crazy one-night stand opening for Ike Turner in NYC in January, the ‘Plastic Fang’ onslaught begins in March when the Blues Explosion play a quick two-night stand on the west coast, March 10 at Bimbo’s in SF and March 11 at the El Rey in Los Angeles. More dates in April and May are being confirmed as we speak. The first European single and accompanying video from ‘Plastic Fang’ is the track “She Said” (not a Beatles or Cramps cover, but much better than anything either band has done recently.)

07/19/01 On stage and in the studio
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are continuing work in a New York studio with producer Steve Jordan on their next album. They’ll be taking a brief respite from recording and overseas gigging when they play Maxwell’s tomorrow, as well as headlining the Siren Festival at Brooklyn’s Coney Island, playing along with Guided By Voices, Superchunk, Quasi and others. In an unrelated note, the Brooklyn Cyclones will be taking on the Staten Island Yankees in what pundits have called "the submarine series," July 25 at Keystone Park. Tickets are sold out, so you might want to go to the Siren Festival instead.

03/07/01 — This generation’s greatest live band risks being blown off the stage by old fucks
In an act of extreme bravery or colossal stupidity (we’re betting on the former), the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion have given a wondrous musical gift to their fans by inviting James Chance & The Contortions (March 7) and Suicide (March 8) to support them at Irving Plaza this week. There aren’t many artists who would dare take the stage following such legendary performers, but the Blues Explosion aren’t many artists. There are 3 of them to be precise, but a big thumbs up to Jon, Judah and Russell for trying to make a hot evening out even hotter.

08/14/00 — Russell Puts The Muscle Into Solo Debut
Russell Simins, easily the finest looking drummer in the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, lets loose with all those thoughts and feelings (musical and otherwise) you didn’t know he had in him — or maybe you just suspected, but were too afraid to ask. ‘Public Places’ is the name of Russell’s new CD/LP, and you can find it in all responsible record stores on October 17, courtesy of our friends at Grand Royal.

05/25/00 — Jon Spencer — Even when he’s inactive, he’s more active than you. The Blues Explosion will have some of their wonderful music featured in the upcoming Todd Phillips masterpiece “Road Trip,” thus continuing Jon Spencer’s long association with MTV affiliated motion pictures (we are of course, referring to Boss Hog’s winning cameo in “Joe’s Apartment”). Jon is also a contributor to the forthcoming David Holmes album, which I’d pre-order from Amazon if they sold vinyl.

— Jon Spencer is currently on tour with Boss Hog. You can find tour dates for them up on the Billions web site.

03/06/00 — Blues Explosion, Extended and Revised. Our friends at Mute U.K. have just reissued Extra Width as a double CD that includes Orange, the Australian Mo’ Width album, plus enhanced CD/video stuff. There’s also a double LP/CD reissue of Experimental Remixes including new mixes from John Oswald, Beck, Prince Paul and others. And if that weren’t enough to drain your bank account, there’s a 12" of Acme material remixed by Techno Animal. All of the above (’cept for the Techno Animal mixes) should be hard to find in North America ’cause Matador are still selling these things (i.e. don’t even think about pissing us off), but if you’re that bothered about it, you could always just move to Europe. Nudity on daytime television. Progressive attitudes towards human/vegetable relations... you might want to consider it!

02/25/00 — But not just yet. Coming up on March 5, everyone’s favorite premium cable TV show, "The Sopranos" will feature the Blues Explosion’s "Lapdance" collaboration with Andre Williams playing in the background or foreground of some undoubtedly brutal (or funny) scene. "The Sopranos" is wonderful entertainment, but what’s with all the bad language?


Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Plastic Fang
[Matador; 2002]

Rating: 2.5

Cover Art

Pity poor Matador  Records. A mere seven or eight years ago, Gerard Cosloy and Chris Lombardi's New York label was the undisputed king of the alternative rock world, sporting a roster full of just-off-the-mainstream-radar luminaries like Pavement, Liz Phair, and Guided by Voices. But since then, Matador's thoroughbreds have all weakened, be it from a) recording silence after marriage/childbirth/divorce, b) loss of uniqueness from courting radio, or c) splintering into less compelling solo entities. Were it not for lucrative back catalog sales and a pack of Scottish nancy-boys, Matador would surely be frolicking in record label heaven with IRS and Twin/Tone.

Jon Spencer and his Blues Explosion weren't quite in the upper echelon of the above artists, but they were sufficiently high profile to appear in Rolling Stone and on 120 Minutes back in those headier mid-nineties. At their peak, JSBX straddled the line between novelty act and early-rock throwback by whitening up the blues behind Spencer's 'Elvis with Tourette's Syndrome' vocals. It was an entertaining gimmick, albeit one with a short shelf life, and it was already starting to fizzle by the time of 1995's Now I Got Worry. Perhaps recognizing this, the band experimented with Dan the Automator and Alec Empire for the Acme and Xtra-Acme albums, to uniformly bland results.

In response to those failures, Spencer & Co. have returned to the basics for Plastic Fang: two guitars, a bag full of riffs, and frequent interjections of "Blues Explosion!" Never mind the tiny fact that the band's gimmick, if tired in the mid-nineties, is downright comatose these days. Nobody seems to have informed JSBX that the world's music warehouse has become overstocked on pale-faced blues, with the White Stripes, etc. improving the sound by keeping things quick and raw while dispensing with the ironic wink.

Or perhaps the Blues Explosion is aware of the garage revival, and looking to claim some kind of Neil Young-esque patriarchal crown. If so, the dozen tracks of Plastic Fang fail miserably, giving off the appearance of a 35 year-old accountant hanging around the old frat house on Homecoming weekend. From the limp rockabilly of first single "She Said" to the faux-live party-stomper "Hold On," the Blues Explosion never venture outside of territory they haven't already beaten to death, producing hollow echoes of their stronger early days.

Don't fault Russell Simins, whose Grade-A drumming on "Money Rock N' Roll" and "The Midnight Creep" is comparable to putting a Corvette engine in a Ford Focus. No, blame should be firmly thrown towards bandleader Spencer, whose drawling soul man act has shifted from tongue-in-cheek egotism to outright cartoon. Punctuating verses with yells of "Blues Explosion!" and "Rock and roll!" might have amused me when I was 15, but in an age where Jay-Z self-promotes seventeen different aliases over the course of an album, Spencer sounds just plain out-of-touch. Given that Plastic Fang lyrically seems to be a loose concept album casting Spencer as a werewolf... well, that really doesn't even require further comment.

The dual guitar interplay of Spencer and Judah Bauer remains spottily potent, as on "Over and Over," but usually loses its charm by the one-minute point of the song. Had JSBX kept things short and poorly recorded, a stronger case could probably have been made for salvaging this project. But tracks tend to stretch out over four lifelessly produced minutes so that Spencer can make tired Frampton and James Brown references, coasting along with a fraction of the energetic kick they used to have. It's ironic, and a little bit sad, to see a band whose original goal was to steer the music world back towards Marquee Club-era Stones grow as stodgy and irrelevant as Steel Wheels-era Stones.

So while JSBX hasn't formally announced Plastic Fang as their farewell album, this writer's going to go ahead and pronounce them officially deceased (hopefully tricking them into retiring). In true series finale style, it's time to fire up Green Day's "Time of Your Life" and run the slo-mo highlight reel: the brilliant Aerosmith/Run DMC sendup video for "Flavor," that other video where John C. Reilly played Simins, the collaborations with R.L. Burnside and Rufus Thomas, and what the hell, Spencer's wife Cristina Martinez running around in a bra and miniskirt. Farewell, Blues Explosion... we knew ye too well.

-Rob Mitchum, April 18th, 2002

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