Nobody says “rock ‘n’ roll” quite like Jon Spencer. There’s the sheer amount of excess that goes into his music, full of gritty hooks and rhyme schemes based around the word “baby.” There’s his frontman shtick, which ranges from Elvis-on-speed to a laid-back, growling James Brown. There’s the Blues Explosion, who back him up with solid grooves that lend themselves to songs about werewolves and sex. And then there’s just the way he spit outs the words “rock ‘n’ roll,” like the phrase is an expletive.
Plastic Fang is JSBX’s latest slab of primal blues-rock, and probably their best to date. Gone is the outright hip-hop of Acme, as the record favors a more classic sound. Not in a Strokes or White Stripes kind of way, but in true Blues Explosion fashion: dirty, loud and completely danceable.
“Sweet n’ Sour” is about as straight ahead as these guys have ever rocked, with a blues riff that’s just an excuse for Russel Simins to bang the hell out of his drum kit. “She Said” reintroduces the patented JSBX groove: Spencer and Judah Bauer interlock guitar riffs, working around a beat that would make even the stuffiest of indie-rockers get up and dance.
From time to time, Fang slows down its revisiting of the roots of rock ‘n’ roll, most successfully on the mellow funk tune “Hold On.” Sit back and listen to the Blues Explosion trade licks with guest guitarist Dr. John; bob your head to the rhythm and trust Spencer when he sings, “I’m gonna pack a punch/ Get straight to the point/ Now let’s get together everybody/ We’re gonna rock this joint.”
“Mean Heart” is an acoustic-based stomp that sounds like an Exile on Main Street b-side. The Rolling Stones influence has always been there, but JSBX usually buries it with noisy electric guitars. It’s a significantly different sound for them, and helps Fang set up its closer, “Point of View.” This last song has the energy of an encore, a gift from Spencer to those wanting a last chance to rock.
If you’re looking for something new to blast out the window when you’re playing frisbee in the courtyard, go to Cutler’s and get this damn album. It’s infectious as hell in that “can’t-stop-shakin’-your-ass” kind of way. Just play it as loud as possible and you’ll see what I mean.