Catching the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Occasionally I go to a concert that I regret not going to 20 years earlier.
This happened last week, when I caught the punk/blues/garage band the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Valentines in Albany. To prepare for the occasion, I picked up a copy of the band’s 1994 album “Orange,” which I have on tape but haven’t listened to in years because I no longer have a tape player. I’d forgotten what a good album it is — an energetic, noisy blast of rock and roll, distinguished by some adventurous experimentation, terrific hooks and a sharp sense of humor and swagger. “Orange” still sounds fresh and new, and if the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion never achieved the success of hardworking garage rock bands such as The White Stripes and The Black Keys, well, this album suggests they deserve to be more than an alternative music footnote.
Anyway, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion put on exactly the show I expected them to, which is an observation, not a criticism. They were raucous and loud, messy, catchy and defiantly eccentric — a perfect band for a dive-y club like Valentine’s. They played both new and old material, and it all sounded pretty good. My conclusion: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion does what it does, and does it extremely well. This is a band that occupies a very specific musical niche, and doesn’t seem all that interested in venturing outside of it. Whereas The White Stripes really did evolve and try new things, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion seems happy playing the same unique style of music it always has. Much as I like “Orange,” nothing about the concert made me feel like I need to invest in the band’s back catalog.
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is one of those bands that’s a little too weird for mainstream tastes, and the show at Valentine’s reflected this. There were plenty of people there, but it was not crowded, and if I didn’t know any better I might have assumed that the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was an up-and-coming new act. Their sound is timeless, in a way, and I hope this tour earns them a whole new generation of fans.
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