Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Deluxe Editions: Extra Width + Orange + Acme

January 01, 1970

(Majordomo/Shout! Factory)


When the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion signed with Matador
Records in 1992, they insisted the stalwart NYC mega-indie buy them the
Complete Stax/Volt Singles box set as a bonus incentive. As it turned out, that
strange dealmaker was the best thing to ever happen to former Pussy Galore
frontman Spencer, his drummer in the short-lived Honeymoon Killers Russell
Simins and Mr. Judah Bauer on lead guitar. By the time they finally got through
that collection, they had absorbed enough of the maximum R&B inside those
nine CDs to have permanently altered the course of their once caustic and
abrasive hybrid of primal rock and avant-punk.


Originally released on June 1, 1993, Extra Width (9 out of 10 stars) was defined by the time the band
had spent in Memphis laying down the album, right down to the package of panty
hose purchased at a local truck stop from which the title sprang.  The influence of Tav Falco and Booker T.
& The MGs can be heard with equal measure across the original 11 tracks, generously
expanded on this 2010 deluxe edition. This updated version nearly doubles the
tracklisting of the original LP with its 1994 Australia-only collection of
outtakes and remixes Mo Width, and
adds a second CD of even more rarities, including a cover of Andre Williams’
“Jailhouse Blues” and both sides of the JSBX’s Sub Pop 7-inch, the holiday
single “Big Yule Log Boogie” b/w “My Christmas Wish,” and previously unreleased
live tracks from an October 1993 studio show in Brooklyn.


The full effect of that Stax/Volt signing bonus came to
complete fruition in the Blues Explosion sound with the release of the trio’s
magnum opus, Orange (10 out of 10
stars) not only their finest album but their best-selling title to date, having
sold over 100,000 copies since its initial release. What separates Orange from everything else JSBX had done previously is the undeniable influence of
hip-hop interpolated throughout the record. By 1994, the lines between rap and
rock had forever been blurred past the correcting point, with the Beastie Boys’
continued transference to the live band format via Ill Communication, the rise of The Roots, Beck’s folk-hop hybrid
dominating college radio, and the unforgettable soundtrack to the deplorably
unmemorable 1993 action film Judgment
pairing up the likes of Sonic Youth with Cypress Hill, Helmet with
House of Pain and Teenage Fanclub with De La Soul. So the time was right for
JSBX to allow their collective interest in the rising forces of Dr. Dre and the
Wu-Tang Clan infiltrate their Stax-stained punk sound, which, in turn, helped
them to increase their fanbase tenfold and even further facilitated the melding
of the two otherwise disparate genres. This deluxe edition of Orange is an incredibly generous
two-disc set that includes live cuts, album outtakes, radio sessions and, on
the second disc, the 10-track European version of the 1995 companion EP Experimental Remixes, featuring versions
of such LP highlights as “Flavor” reimagined by Beck and Mike D., “Blues X Man”
given a Triple X makeover by Prince Paul, and the Chronic-copping “Greyhound” retooled by Moby and then again by the


Following a return to the primordial blues-core urgency in
reaction to their sudden burst of popularity with 1997’s caustic Now I Got Worry (also expanded and
reissued as part of this series), the Blues Explosion once again laced their
furious sonic bravado with funky fresh beats on 1999’s Acme (8 out of 10 stars) as if finally succumbing to their destiny
in the unholy matrimony of hip-hop and rock ‘n’ roll on their most
groove-oriented album to date. The deluxe edition here adds eight rare tracks
to the original 13-song LP, including collaborations with Techno Animal and Jim
“Foetus” Thirlwell as well as a second disc containing Xtra Acme USA, a 19-song compilation of b-sides and remixes only
previously made available as a promotional item received by press and college
radio upon the initial release of Acme.


Other prominent members of Matador Records’ mid-‘90s class
like Pavement and Guided By Voices might be stealing the spotlight with their
respectively prolific reunion tours, but hopefully the deluxe editions of this
trio of classic titles will show these young blogging whippersnappers that the
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was just as vital to the evolution of indie rock as
their peers.


DOWNLOAD: “Afro”, “Soul Typecast”, “Flavor Pt. 1”, “Greyhound”, “Magical Colors”, “Talk
About The Blues” RON HART

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