Now I Got Worry

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Matador Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Calling Now I Got Worry, the most recent album from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, chaotic is sort of like calling a Diamanda Galas album "difficult listening". It's a sonic mess that sounded like it was recorded in the damp basement of one of the members apartments after a bottle of Wild Turkey, a case of beer and various other substances.

If you can tolerate the screams and the feedback shellings you get with the opening track, "Skunk" and "Identify", you begin to see some structure form towards the end of the album. But it takes a whole mess o' listens to the album before you reach that point. For a while, Now I Got Worry, is noise, drenched in old-style blues, new style funk and a brash attitude to boost.

Imagine Junior Wells, the Wu-Tang-Clan and Ministry having a recording session together and you get a sample of the Blues Explosion sound. Once you get through the initial difficult listens, however, and Now I Got Worry is a great work that stands on its own merits. Lead singer/preacher Jon Spencer is no stranger to "unstructured" sounds. He was one of the founders of the art-noise band Pussy Galore. His love for the blues was one of the reasons that the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion came to be. And with artists such as Justin Berry and Thermos Malling, his love for the blues is genuine and not some white boy novelty act.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Russell Simins improves on the grooves that helped make their last album Orange an essential buy. Judah Bauer refines his guitar work, effortlessly jamming with Spencer, making the two an awesome pair of ax-wielders. Highlights of their work can be found on "Chicken Dog", "Love All Over Me" and the instrumental, "B.L. Got Soul".

While Spencer's blues-lovin' fixation is indeed genuine, he's not above trying to perpitrate the bad-ass-mutherfucker stereotype ala Dolemite. In "Wail", he lets loose an Elvis like croon, "". On "Dynamite Lover", he postures about, well...look at the title and you get the idea.

For rhythm lovers, the entire middle of Now I Got Worry is like KFC gravy. The groove gets offset by the explosively charged, "Firefly Child" and "Eyeballin", where the bands punk roots surface. The rather poor sound quality of some of the songs enhance the spontaneous energy the band has so well utilized. On Orange, that energy was toned down a bit to make way for a more radio-friendly album.

Not surprisingly, Orange is the album that is easier to like from the band. If the psycho/punk blues sound is up your alley, check out Orange first. However, Now I Got Worry is a more rewarding buy. The looseness of the album will sound too sloppy for most listeners. But, the album is full of rewards. Those sloppy guitar scratches seem more and more like painful recreations of the energy that past blues artists relied on making their sound so vital.

Part of being a music lover is possessing a passion for a sound that sometimes can't be justified by logic. Given enough listens, albums that once appeared to be the equivilant of a middle finger to the fans sound as good as their other albums. Other debacles such as Van Halen III and Re-Load can only be appreciated by fans who are willing to put their children in front of a tour bus to get a chance to meet the band. Now I Got Worry falls into the former category. It stubbornly avoids the in-your-face funk and groove of their earlier albums. But they made an album that was meant to be appreciated by letting it seep in listen after listen. If that's too difficult for listeners, they would be better off obeying the words of Mr. Spencer, "Kiss my ass, 'cause your girlfriend still loves me!"

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Matador Records, and is used for informational purposes only.