MEAT + BONE - The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (Freeform Patterns/Fusemusic)
It was back in the early '90s that I had a dalliance with The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and I didn't think I'd ever go back. When it came to fucking with the blues, the Beasts of Bourbon were doing it better and to be blunt, Jon Spencer was an alleged trust fund beneficiary who seemed to be disappearing up his own influences.

Then a smelly food pack labelled "Meat + Bone" arrived, unannounced, in the mailbox.

Let's look at what fell out of the padded envelope: The grim cover shows what looks like an old age pensioner's nutsack probably the gnarly end of a lamb shank - but you never know) dangling close to a hook. The album and band name are splattered across the picture in bold red in a stupid typeface that's hard to read. There are band member photos inside the three panel fold-out sleeve with words in the same font, just to make sure they're semi-legible.

It's said dogs return to their vomit andit was back catalogue re-issues that brought The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion back together in 2010. It's been eight years since their last "real" record. "Meat + Bone" finds Spencer and Co wallowing in the dirtiest of grooves. They still belch and fart like your worse-for-wear, developmentally-challenged cousin at a family wake after five beers too many. Unlike that prat when he's sober, however, there's nothing pretentious going down.

Jon Spencer sounds more like the ageing bluesman he's always wanted to be. His guitar is right up in the mix, battling with a big wall of bass. The playing is nice and loose - in other words, "sloppy-good".

Wrap your lugs around the distorted bass and crude skronk of "Boot Cut" or the self-referencing strut of "Get Your Pants Off" and you'll be convinced this is no re-heating of stale food. Even the cruddiest pizza tastes always better after a couple of days in the fridge, but whatever's in "Meat+Bone" is freshly-baked.

"Meat + Bone" was recorded on a vintage desk in Michigan in the depths of winter (Jeffrey Dahmer's house presumably being unavailable.) If you've been in Michigan at that time of the year you'll know that it can be colder than your mother-in-law's shoulder. The band committed their thing to tape after a year of touring and mixed it back home in New York City.

The surprising/cliched (you tick whichever box applies) thing is that "Meat + Bone" sounds halfway dangerous."Bottle Baby" writhes and squirms before Spencer commands someone to "get the fuck off the stage". It morphs nicely into the harried thrash of "Danger". "Zigmar" finds the Explosion in instro groove territory and takes us out nicely before two bonus tracks (exclusive to the Australian release) bring down the curtain properly.

If you're wondering about those bonuses, " Tell Me That You Love Me" is a 1min19sec anxiety attack while "Gadzooks" is funky skankabilly. Both be good.

"Meat+Bone" might be a shock comeback. The uninitated might just find it a shock. Either way, it's an argument for telling Mum to "Fuck off" as you scrape the vegetables off your plate and get down to gnawing on the bone. - The Barman



 

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