Out There

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Xtra-Acme USA
(Matador Records)

Jon Spencer probably counts his enemies among his fans, since at least those who hate him give a shit one way or the other. After all, the world is divided equally among those who think he's a deconstructionist-revisionist-pomo godhead and those who think he's got a bad case of dem white-boy, East Village Boho blues. Never mind that both camps are partly correct: Spencer is indeed just another in rock's long line of upscale honkies slummin' it on the dark side of the street. Dogging the man for being unauthentic is an indefensible position. Better to come down on the JSBX for making and remaking the same record for the past half-plus decade -- literally, since almost every "real" release is followed by a remixed version of its predecessor about 12 months later (Mo' Width follows Extra Width; Experimental Remixes follows Orange) with a dozen EPs thrown in to augment the discography.

Everyone seems to miss the one thing for which Spencer and his homeboys (guitarist Judah Bauer and funky drummer Russell Simins) can be legitimately condemned: Their shtick wears thin halfway through any record they've ever made, whether you're talking Pussy Galore, JSBX, or even Spencer's side project Boss Hog -- the last of which is at least funny and funky enough to let slide without too much bother. Xtra-Acme USA essentially compiles outtakes and redos from last year's Acme, which was the JSBX's most, ah, mature record -- if, by mature, you mean the boys finally learned how to write songs that consisted of more than catch phrases spouted over fuzzy-wuzzy guitar farts and funk-you beats. That, and it rounds up the usual suspects (Moby, David Holmes, Calvin Johnson) to add their smeared touch to the proceedings. In all, been there, done that better before, especially if you've ever heard the Beck-Mike D. "Flavor" remakes on Experimental, which proved how much JSBX's originals can (and should) be improved upon.

Still, it ain't all a lost cause: The strings-and-things "Bacon" swaps the Memphis Horns for the Boston Pops, and damned if the thing doesn't work and then some; Spencer can pull a gimmick out of his ass and make it smell like roses. And Out of Sight composer David Holmes' redo of "Talk About the Blues" -- here, titled "T.A.T.B. (For the Saints and Sinners Remix)" -- stretches out Acme's mission statement into seven-plus minutes of preach-it-brutha. And there are a handful of not-bad-to-fucking-great throwaways here, among them "Lap Dance" and "Get Down Lover," both of which only prove how much Spencer has become Mick Jagger -- annoying, but never less than riveting.

Robert Wilonsky


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