Picture this: Two guitars, no bass, a drummer, no discernable hooks, fractured blues riffs with no obvious structure.
And this is the most sought-after act in the underground — the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
Playing at an oversold Whisky as part of a West Coast swing, Spencer and band are in the middle of a bidding war for their services from at least three majors. The trio’s obligation to Matador is up, and the buzz is very high.
That fact says more about the current mind-set in the industry than about the viability of the act. Very much the darling of the underground press and college radio, Jon Spencer, the former leader of New York’s noisy Pussy Galore, is making huge waves. But the Explosion’s music is hardly the stuff of massive popularity, as it seems to be a deconstruction of such fractured musicians as Captain Beefheart, Richard Hell or James Chance.
Songs don’t last more than a minute or two, rarely climaxing in choruses, and usually end with Spencer’s James Brown-like declaration “blues explosion.” The brew is powerful, though, taking traditional blues licks and stacking them up in the strangest order imaginable. Despite the band’s monicker, they are far removed from Muddy Waters or B.B. King.
Powered by Russell Simmons thrashing yet swinging drums and Judah Bauer’s scratchy, atonal rigging, Spencer wails over the top of this noise like a wounded coyote. It works live, and on tape, as the band’s recent release, “Extra Width,” and its plethora of indie singles attest.
There’s nothing like this band anywhere, as they are the distillation of perhaps 20 years of New York new wave music.