Only a handful of white guys have managed to successfully capture the
essence of the blues -- Stevie Ray Vaughan, Charlie Musslewhite and
Captain Beefheart in the 70s. And now, in the 90s, Jon Spencer and his
But the Blues Explosion don't just have the blues, they have Blues
Power. And on Acme, the band's fifth album in seven years,
Spencer and company return to demonstrate that white guys do in fact
know how to get funky. This album is overflowing with twangy guitars
dropped on top of gigantic hip-hop beats, and James Brown samples
scratched over Spencer's laid back self-referential vocals, all put
together with precision and grace. The album stretches between early
P-Funk blues jams, Rolling Stones-like 60's garage rock and the white
guy hip-hop of the Beastie Boys or Beck, combined into an cohesive unit
that flows from beginning to end.
You can always kind of tell where Jon Spencer's head is at by the color
of his latest CD. The silver and orange cover on his 1994 album
Orange hinted at the album's slickly produced content, while the
black matte cover of Now I Got Worry (1996) warned the listener
of the sinister noise inside. And now Acme's red and orange cover
announces a medium-fi compromise between the two extremes.
For Acme the Blues Explosion enlisted the help of
producer-to-the-stars Steve Albini, whose influence can be heard all
over the record, from the ultra-sharp guitar tones of Spencer and
bandmate Judah Bauer to the Mack truck-sized sound of Russell Simins'
bass drum. Gone are the programmed string riffs of Orange, along
with the white noise of Now I Got Worry. Instead, as mentioned,
the album is full
of rapid-fire scratches and hip-hop sound effects courtesy of Dan "The
Automator" Nakamura (who worked recently with Dr. Octagon).
Acme genre-hops all over the board. "Magical Colors" features
some Mick Jaggeresque vocals over some laid-back guitar noise, while
"Lovin' Machine" has all the samples and scratching any B-Boy fan could
ask for. On "Do You Wanna Get Heavy?" the band answers its own question
when Russell Simins finally drops the ultra-wide beat, only to ask to
ask it again with a chorus of extremely funky back-up singers. On vocals
Spencer continues to walk the line between Elvis, Iggy Pop and Jagger,
delivering lines like, "Thank you ladies and gentlemen for letting me
into your home
tonight. I want to talk about the blues," with his own unique brand of
Amazingly, the Blues Explosion rock all of the genres they hop through
on Acme equally well. Not only can these guys tear the roof off a
dance floor with Simins' funky drumming, they can also take it down a
notch or two with bong-rattling bass riffs and slide guitar solos.
"Torture" is a love song like the Rolling Stones used to sing, complete
with dirty slabs of bass, overdriven guitar solos and sappy lyrics like,
"Baby, I just can't stand this torture every day and night."
The Blues Explosion are reinventing rock 'n' roll for the next century.
Creating a new flavor of music that recognizes "the blues" as anything
that makes you want to get up and dance. A new brand of rock that's
unafraid of samples, loops and turntable scratches. Acme
delivers it all and then some.
In the words of the album's opening sample, "This is blues power."