accentuate the sound
this happens to be some of the more pure music made by jsbx – by which i mean there was minimal sampling and editing, and a lot more of the real sound of everyone performing. i’m not saying there aren’t effects applied. but you really know what you’re getting.
it starts with the well-known afro (a great version, anyway) – a basic beat, doug easley organ and thin yet driving bass; a bit of guitar funk. this was close to my start with them as well, though still a couple of years old by the time i got to it (that’s right, this was the original australian-only companion release to extra width, recorded at the same time and released a year or two later).
it was also my own modern appreciation of more standard blues conventions that my mum had passed on in a fairly superficial way. this wasn’t just because of the band’s name, or because there was a cover of a song like ole man trouble, or even because these songs were recorded in memphis. it was more in the ‘call and response’ approach – jon screeching the names of band members who would reply by shredding their own instruments. jon also managed some pretty amazing blues guitar when he tried hard enough (and maybe he wasn’t actually trying at all).
on one of the best songs, cherry lime, the voice of jon is fantastically distorted and vivid, matched with a guitar melody that sounds like he was standing in one corner of a huge barn, and russell’s drumming at its most insistent (replete with an opening and closing cow bell). this can be heard in parallel to johnson which comes a little later, focussing more on a mesmeric ‘quiet’ drum rhythm, subtle harmonica and jon speaking his words more reserved than usual – this makes his and the music’s outbursts that much more astounding when it happens (which is also the most punk-like they manage on this release, to finish the song).
it’s not until fourth song, rob k, that there’s some real depth to the music itself. and that’s not a slight on the rest of the album at all. even with bass turned up loud, the songs are just hard to hear. but the odd spoken-word of rob k, combined with another pass of fast-paced rhythm (through both guitar and drums), added a kind of warmth and sting to the recording. the unsettling thing about this song was that it was one of a couple on the release that didn’t feature jon as the lead vocalist – just plain weird.
i don’t know if was because it was impossible, physically or socially, to mimic jon spencer that no one ever has. the music maintains a kind of ubiquity that makes it somehow not age – while drawing on traditions and breaking them, it rarely descended into parody.
it’s a credit for which i don’t believe they have ever been sufficiently recognised.