“Aaaaaw, you gotta try a little bit harder, yeah, to get the beef on it,” hollers Jon Spencer on “Bag Of Bones,” a rollicking cut from his first Blues Explosion record in eight years, “You gotta git yo’ head outta the past!” Lest we confuse the supercharged NYC trio’s return with some retroactive heritage-rock lamefest, Meat + Bone roars forth with all the heedless carnal immediacy of primetime JSBX. In a nutshell: yowza!
To recap: Spencer, fellow guitarist Judah Bauer and sticksman Russell Simins emerged circa 1990 with a scuzzy, punk-hotwired take on Delta/early rock ‘n’ roll stylings, in a vacuum era for such pleasures. “Do you remember the 1990s? 1980s? 1970s?” quizzes Spencer elsewhere on “Bag Of Bones,” remembering the decades which slowly eradicated rockin’ decency. “Too many squares! Too much mediocrity!”
Across chaotic, basement classics like Extra Width (1993), Orange (1994) and the deep-funk-infused Acme (1998), the band carried the torch for rock ‘n’ roll pretty much solo, until The White Stripes landed in 2001. At that point, they’d been touring for 12 years solid, and on record had lost their way, perhaps honorably aiming to disentangle their sprawling thang into digestible chunks, but ultimately mislaying their mojo. There were no hits. Reunion gigs in 2011 were an exercise in reacquiring/unleashing it again. Meat + Bone duly, gleefully pitches headfirst into the mind-altering primordial soup, whence all those ’90s albums came.
“Black Mold” opens at warp intensity, listing some characteristically outré heroes including Art Blakey, Graham Greene and, most foreseeably, “the explosive Little Richard.” “Boot Cut,” fabulously for fans, tightens vintage anthem “Bellbottoms” to snapping point, while “Get Your Pants Off” and “Zimgar” revisit Acme‘s scratchy, proto-hip hop, beats-’n’-pieces vibe. Most full-bloodedly, “Danger” marries pedal- to-the-metal DC hardcore to Jerry Lee Lewis boogie-woogie. For 40 blistering minutes, the legendary JSBX energy rush never lets up.
The dream scenario, when a band reappears after a lay-off, is that they zero in on what made them ace back when, and that they then smash people with it afresh. Meat + Bone, unequivocally, does exactly that.