Blues Power!

Blues plus hip-hop beats. How could they go wrong?

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

Blues Explosion.

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."