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Damage by The Blues Explosion

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Reviewed on 11th October 2004.



By The Blues Explosion

"Get out ya calculators, slide rooool-ah,
No matter which way you fold or bend-ah,
Oh you neva goanna top us you neva goanna beat us,

In his typical self congratulatory way that only Jon Spencer can carry off we are introduced to the new Blues Explosion album. No longer The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, but simply The Blues Explosion, has Spencer finally learnt to relax his infamous control freak persona? "Can you dig ma band?" Perhaps not, but there are signs he's mellowing with age.

After handing sole production responsibility over to a band outsider (Steve Jordan) for the first time on the last album "Plastic Fang", Spencer sits back again and allows a host of guest producers to get their hands on the album. Past collaborators Dan the Automator and David Holmes are back along with Jordan but there are new faces too in the shape of Chuck D and DJ Shadow.

After the disappointing "Plastic Fang", "Damage" sees The Blues Explosion back to something close to their best although there's still a way to go in capturing the magic of "Now I Got Worry" and "Orange". Songs like "Damage" and the DJ Shadow contribution "Fed Up and Low Down" see band back to their best and the blinding anti-war "Hot Gossip" is quite simply genius, all brooding testosterone with Chuck D's sniping gritty rapping over the top. "Ah got the blues," snarls Spencer, "the red white and blues!"

Forget The White Stripes and The Black Keys. The Blues Explosion cannot be beaten by any of their contemporaries in terms of understanding the blues and laying them down. Neither The White Stripes or The Black Keys are bad at playing the blues but therein lies their problem... they play the blues. To really play the blues you have to feel the blues and when you hear the looseness of the Judah Bauer's guitar, Russell Simins' drumming and Spencer's vocals you to realise how much these guys understand what the blues are. Just listen to "Rattlin'" on the album, the most fucked up blues track they've made since "Sticky" on "Now I got Worry". It's blues for the 21st Centaury. If Leadbelly, BB King or Howlin' Wolf or any of those cats had Pro Tools and a couple of mates who could use some decks (surely the modern washboard skiffle fans) you know they would have come up with something close to this.

As the man says... The Blues are still number one.



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