Vying for ‘America’s most raucous, hardest-working rock ’n’ roll band’
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s nine-date fall tour, starting Thursday, Oct. 3, in Baton Rouge, is the culmination of a busy 15 months for the New York City-based band with a 22-year history of playing its riotous neo-punk-rock.
Months of international touring followed the September 2012 release “Meat and Bone,” the band’s first studio album since 2004’s “Damage.”
The album inspired tremendous reactions from critics in the U.S. and abroad. Rolling Stone labeled “Meat and Bone” “speaker-scorching.” Pitchfork announced that the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was reapplying for the job of America’s most raucous, hardest-working rock ’n’ roll band.”
“Yeah,” Spencer said from Brooklyn last week, “I was joking around with a friend of mine that ‘Meat and Bone’ was the best reviewed album of 2012. I never saw a negative review.”
Praise seemed especially intense in the U.K.
“Original alt-blues preacherman Spencer is in ferocious form here,” NME’s four-star review said. “Indefinably thrilling,” Uncut said.
“Nobody’s putting us on the cover over there yet,” Spencer said of Britain. “But maybe that’ll come. We’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s interesting to see the way we come in and out of fashion. We’ll see what happens next year.”
“Meat and Bone” followed a 2010 reissue campaign of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion recordings, including full-length deluxe albums and the collection, “Dirty Shirt Rock ‘N Roll: The First Ten Years by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.”
Work for the collection and reissues influenced the newly recorded “Meat and Bone.”
“It may not have been something that we spoke about openly,” Spencer said, “but I do think the reissues played a part in the kind of things we did and the choices we made. ‘Meat and Bone’ is a record that’s definitely focused on the band. It’s about an honest to goodness working group and what happens between the three of us.”
Re-releasing the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion catalog in such a thoughtful way (via the Shout Factory! label) was possible in large part because Spencer owns the recordings. Of course, many artists have no control over their own recordings. Spencer, who first achieved notoriety with the noisy, chaotic Pussy Galore, credits ownership of his music to the do-it-yourself ethic of 1980s-era American punk and hardcore music.
“That was my spawning ground and the lessons were there,” he said. “If you wanted to make a record, you made it. But you had to work a lousy job to make the money to pay for the studio. And if you wanted to play a show, you put on your own show or booked your own tour.
“A lot of that is about responsibility. Yeah, you don’t want to sell yourself outright to anybody.”
After the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s October tour, during which the band will make its debut at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Spencer, guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins will take a break.
“I don’t know if this one will be long,” Spencer said. “We will have a break of a few months, but we wouldn’t be coming to Baton Rouge or playing any of these upcoming shows if we didn’t enjoy playing. It feels good, so we keep with it.”