The fact that a decade after their debut, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is still packing them into clubs like the El Rey proves it is possible to carve out a career from one good idea if you execute it well.
The New York trio strips the already primitive sound of the Stooges and MC5 to its barest essentials, adding a patina of post-punk noise, a dollop of old fashioned sex appeal and winds it up so it careens like a hyperactive 5-year-old. This willfully limited sound has long been a favorite of college radio, with the White Stripes (who, if anything, refine the formula even further) being the latest exponent. Band is touring in advance of the April release of its eighth disc, “Plastic Fang” (Matador).
Spencer and second guitarist Judah Bauer bash out jagged, fragmentary guitar lines, the distorted riffs arcing and twitching around each other like downed power lines. Without a bassist to play against, Russell Simins drums become even more of a lead instrument than in most power trios, and his propulsive playing can be equally as manic as Keith Moon and as solid as John Bonham.
Spencer’s vocals are less singing than verbal posing, affecting an exaggerated Elvis Presley drawl or a harsh Iggy Pop-styled howl. He’s still a riveting performer, although he does not leap around the stage as much as in the past and has cut down on the number of times he interjects “Blues Explosion!” into the songs.
Other than that, the hour-long performance hewed closely to what the Blues Explosion does best. It may be getting a little gray around the temples, but why mess with something that still works so well.