Blues Explosion Damage

If Jon Spencer removed his name from the main Blues Explosion moniker as a show of solidarity to his fellow band-mates, Judah Bauer and Russell Simins, it hasn’t changed their approach much. If anything, the trio needed some kind of change in order to keep up with the growing legions of quasi-garage-bluesmen who have emerged in their wake over the past decade. Their earlier albums, Orange and Now I Got Worry, set the standard, yet the recent Plastic Fang found them re-treading the same groove that Keith Richards has been stuck in since 1972. Of course, working with Keef henchman Steve Jordan as producer had a lot to do with that, and reusing him means not much has changed sonically on Damage. That’s not to say Spencer and co. aren’t continuing to expand the genre; "Hot Gossip” features a welcome appearance by Chuck D, while Dan the Automator and DJ Shadow successfully mutate tracks like "Fed Up and Low Down” and "Rattling.” Elsewhere, the bizarre acoustic ditty "Spoiled,” and the pile-driving "Mrs. Arizona,” sees Spencer doing his best Iggy & the Stooges approximations. The high point, though, is "You Been My Baby,” a maelstrom of Beefheart-esque blues wailing that could be the most honest lyric Spencer has ever written. But as on most of the band’s albums, there aren’t enough of these fine moments to make it a classic from start to finish. A hot, steaming slab of pure rock’n’roll nonetheless. (Sanctuary)