The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Dirty Shirt Rock ‘N’ Roll: The First Ten Years (Majordomo)
Before the White Stripes redefined garage-blues for “the aughts,” the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion mapped out the entire primitive-rock geography for a solid decade, mostly for the Matador label. During the going-grunge ’90s, frontman Spencer dragged the blues kicking and screaming from the VH1 Unplugged acoustic refinement of “Layla” and into a place where audiences of both the Chitlin’ Circuit and Grand Guignol could find sonic satisfaction. Deconstructionists par excellence, Blues Explosion has yet to produce a polished recording, instead opting to break every riff down to its lacerating core, every vocal to its howling essence. Whether you’re talking the brutal cacophony of “Chicken Dog” or the funked-out bliss of “Bellbottoms” or the sucker-punch slide guitar of “Blues X Man,” the band is uncompromisingly pure, raucous and real. Don’t let Blues Explosion’s messy, nasty rep discourage you. This 22-track best-of release will get your booty shaking—and doing other questionable acts, too.
We Are Wolves Invisible Violence (Dare to Care)
The Montreal-based trio are now three albums deep into a brilliant career of fusing disco, electronica and garage rock in a way that few of the band’s peers can match. Not too heavy for the dance crowd and yet not too synthetic for the rockers, Invisible Violence is the band’s finest moment so far, a 12-song energizer that arrives just in time for spring break, bikinis and beach-proof beer bongs. “Walking Commotion,” with its throbbing synth-bass intro, ultimately reveals itself as a Ramones-styled slice of glue-sniffing, three-chord street-rock. “Reaching for the Sky” glides forward into a dark, cybernetic tunnel, its four-to-the-floor beat driving the listener to the very edge of a light-scattered metropolis. There are a few moments that are maybe too evocative of ’80s new wave, such as the spiky power chords that punctuate “Me As Enemy.” Overall, however, Violence is aggressive, tuneful fun for getting ready for a long night of nightclubbing.
Look Mexico To Bed to Battle (Suburban Home)
Somewhere between the gritty anguish of Cursive and the arty guitar wallop of The Walkmen exists the expansive rock sound of Look Mexico. Expertly recorded in a pizza shop in Tallahassee, Fla., Battle mines territory already explored by earlier, more mature emo acts. “Maybe a good friend’s like a great story—you pick up where you left off,” singer Matt Agrella wonders. This versatile quintet doesn’t just specialize in clever metaphors. Blast-it-with-the-car-windows-down tracks like “Until the Lights Burn Out?” are deliciously visceral. Still, Ryan Slate’s pedal steel, Dave Pinkham’s keyboard and Agrella’s horn (trombone and trumpet) parts cause Battle to brim with musicianship. Like the band’s lush home state, the sonic palette of Look Mexico makes you feel like anything—even love—is possible.