The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Dirty Shirt Rock ‘N’ Roll: The First 10 Years
Positioning JSBX in their rightful place as a timeless, blooz-garage soul-punkers
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's initial run was a screeching, epileptic, record geek's revolt; the sexy, spasmodic cool kids here to sabotage the rise of Pavement and listless Converse-gazing '90s indie. Unlike, say, Yo La Tengo, JSBX not only listened to the best rock 'n' roll records, they lived them, knowing that true rock myths weren't engraved in melodies, but were forged in sweat, screaming and S.E.X. Their music basically shouted, "Hey nerds, who cares about the chords of the songs Elvis performed on Sullivan? "
Their first greatest-hits set includes all the requisite Alternative Nation novelties ("Bellbottoms," "Flavor," "Afro"). But Dirty Shirt Rock 'N' Roll does the band a great service by burying the quirky hits, positioning JSBX in their rightful place as a timeless, blooz-garage soul-punkers, especially ones in the tradition of the heroes — demented soul icon Rufus Thomas (featured on opener "Chicken Dog"), blues badass R.L. Burnside (who they back on "Shake 'Em On Down") and R&B's perennial dirty-old-man Andre Williams (who co-wrote and sings on "Lap Dance"). Fond of playing with remixers, theremins and gadgets, the least celebrated JSBX is the stripped-down, no-nonsense, groove-and-bark band, featured on 1996's Now I Got Worry, 1999's Xtra Acme USA and 2002's Plastic Fang — all of whose tracks come early and often. But all of the JSBX's stylistic detours get equal representation with no notable omissions.
The earliest JSBX (1992's "History Of Sex," "Water Main") featured Spencer fresh from art-noize pricks Pussy Galore, and the band blasted 90-second bursts of Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Black Flag, tantrums that verged on no wave with their savage energy and disgusting torrents of distortion. Once JSBX got their groove on 1993's Extra Width ("Train #2," "Afro"), the band quickly exploded into a prismatic, rap-centric, avant-rock behemoth. Their most acclaimed album Orange filtered their signature blues-punk through everything imaginable: Blaxploitation strings ("Bellbottoms"), sexy soul raps ("Blues X Man"), theremin-twurked hip-hop ("Greyhound") and one devilishly funky Public Enemy rip ("Flavor," here remixed by Beck, Mario Caldato, Jr. and Mike D). Their experimental tendencies reached ridiculous heights on 1998's Acme — tracks like "Talk About The Blues" were mixed by then-shit-hot producer Dan The Automator to feature dizzying hurricanes of James Brown and Schoolly D samples. But Dirty Shirt remembers how they always came swinging back to the dirty rock that raised them, especially on 2002's Plastic Fang ("Money Rock'N'Roll," "She Said"), whose tracks nearly bookend this set with no-frills rockage.