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Phases & Stages


Reviewed by Austin Powell, May 14, 2010, Music

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Now I Got Worry (Majordomo)

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Dirty Shirt Rock 'n' Roll: The First Ten Years (Majordomo)

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Controversial Negro (Majordomo)

History remembers the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as predecessor to the bass-less, post-millennium blues of the White Stripes and Black Keys, but the NYC-bred trio's skuzz rock had more in common with the maniacal shock of the Butthole Surfers: confrontational performance art at maximum volume. The Pussy Galore offshoot's slacker ambivalence and take-it-or-leave-it punk ethos defines 1996's Now I Got Worry as much as guest vocalist Rufus Thomas' Pavlovian response on "Chicken Dog" and ghetto blaster "Fuck Shit Up." The remastered edition nearly doubles the fun, with 12 previously unreleased tunes that vary from gutter rockabilly ("Get With It") to red-light sleaze ("Turn Up Greene"). JSBX's comfort zone wasn't in a studio, however. That much is evident from Dirty Shirt Rock 'n' Roll: The First Ten Years, a haphazard overview assembled by Spencer himself that pairs half-baked jams with the likes of Andre Williams-led "Lap Dance" and the R.L. Burnside blues of "Shake 'Em on Down" from 1995 collaboration A Ass Pocket of Whiskey. There's a few jukebox standards, most notably the unshakable "Afro" and metallic "Bellbottoms," but their in-the-red rattle is better served in a live setting. Insert Controversial Negro, a promotional-only live vinyl LP originally shelved due to its cover – a Warholian Mick Jagger. Guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins hold down the back line as Spencer, gloriously incomprehensible with CB radio mic fidelity and tent revival audacity, wields his theremin like a weapon ("The Vacuum of Loneliness"). Its long-overdue U.S. debut, modeled after the Japanese import version, tacks on four additional songs and another live set recorded two years prior. Jagger's duct-taped likeness remains a fitting image, given that the album's main blitzkrieg sounds like the Stones' Rock and Roll Circus crossed with James Brown's Star Time soul revue.

(Worry) ***.5

(Dirty Shirt) **

(Controversial Negro) ****

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