When The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion made its lustrous return with Meat + Bone in 2012 (after revisiting their catalogue with Shout Factory), fans were thrilled to discover that the band’s first desire was to just play straight and simply; there were no frills or fantastic embellishments on the band’s ninth album as there had been on Acme and Orange, and there was nothing over-the-top about it as there had been on Sideways Soul and Damage – it was just a straight-up rock record, and that difference was instantly endearing. Fans spoke well of the band’s return and they were clearly listening because, with Freedom Tower, they’ve produced another solid, straightforward dynamo.
The beauty of Freedom Tower is that – even more so than on Meat + Bone – the album is only interested in presenting the songs, not presenting thirteen tracks “which fit together in this slightly skewed vision of post-modernist composition” as most every other JSBX album has done, and each of them sounds hot, bothered and awesome as the band lays them down too. For example, “Wax Dummy” might just be the smoothest, most swaggering song in the JSBX book, but it’s even better for the fact that it isn’t earnest and doesn’t over-reach in any way at all, really; it’s just a rock song with a great strut and a smooth motion.
Conversely, “Do The Get Down” is all about the beat and Spencer’s own vocal association with it and could have been the best song you never heard come out of the vaults at Stax – but JSBX doesn’t try to force that idea down listeners’ throats; they just play it out, let it stand and let listeners judge for themselves. That confident idea of simply letting the songs stand for themselves is the hook which will get fans on board with Freedom Tower because it is so simple and the songs are so hot that they’re undeniable. There’s nothing ambitious about them; they just each rock like a beast.
Needless to say, Freedom Tower really does feel like a great new awakening for The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion because, for the first time, they’re holding onto an idea and developing it rather than just posting blasts of post-modern commentary. On Freedom Tower – No Wave Dance Party 2015 it feels as though The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion has begun to play rock by rock’s rules but – because they did everything else first and honed their craft – they’re really, really good at it.
(Mom + Pop Music/RED/Sony Music)