- Audio CD (27 Sept. 2004)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Enhanced
- Label: Mute
- ASIN: B0002TB6QQ
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 349,836 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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.Label: Mute Records.Published: 2004
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The newest album, Damage, is good. Watch the video for "Burn it Off" and that's enough, really. But, like the others, it has a lot of the normal weaknesses of the other albums. One minor weakness to a Blues Explosion album, however, has been totally removed. All of the previous albums in some way attempted a single coherent sound for the entire album in the tradition of most alterna/punk rock albums. Because the Blues Explosion is 2 guitarists and a drummer, this naturally posed problems by the time they crossed the 20 minute mark. Despite summoning more noise from those three people than probably physically possible, the trademark sounds they were trying to create each album, whether it be gritty old blues with Now I Got Worry, more mainstream rock with Plastic Fang, or funk with Acme, the pounding Russell Simmins drums and Spencer and Judah's guitar assaults just got monotonous and old. Damage is the first Blues Explosion album in memory to avoid that by simply having different sounds for every song. This feels more like a hip hop album than a rock album because they enlisted a ton of producers (like Dan the Automator, DJ Shadow, and Steve Jordan) to diversify the sound. Even Chuck D appears! (For a Spencer interview that details the production process and the writing process for the album, here's the Sun-Times to the rescue)
Damage feels fresh with each new track. There's the slow grind of "Damage" to kick things off, then the first single with it's churning shuffle "Burn It Off." The real treats in this album though are some of the more interesting tracks the Blues Explosion has ever done. "Spoiled" is a light piece with acoustic guitar and what sounds like a little girl's voice for the chorus. "Hot Gossip" is solid poltiical blues-rock, but with Chuck D rapping the chorus. You'd only expect that from Spencer, who actually studied Semiotics at a grad level at Brown University (bet you didn't see that one coming). One of the album's most provocative pieces is the stop-and-go blues/hiphop/punk rock track DJ Shadow produced and scratched on, "Fed Up and Low Down." Classic rock sounds pop in, especially with "Rattling", and with "Mars, Arizona." In general, the Blues Explosion is a lot less afraid to stray away from their punk rock and rowdy RL Burnside fast blues roots and play the slow jams and grooves. It lends a much more soleful tone to Damage than other albums where there were only a few token slow pieces. All in all, Damage reveals not only keen musicianship, but a diversity and maturity a lot of the previous work failed at really nailing down. It may have taken this long, but Spencer and Co. finally appear to have grown into serious musicians moving beyond some "This is not the devil's music, the blues is number one, etc. etc." shtick and into a steely, tough, and versatile band.
Thankfully, any damage done by "Plastic Fang" is completely undone by "Damage," easily the most satisfying album the Blues Explosion have ever released. It hits the ground running, moving imediately from the introductory bump'n'grind of the title track into "Burn It Off", a molten hot chunk of rock'n'roll sleaze that absolutely perfects the band's jones for the Stones. From there it's an eclectic journey through every variation on the Blues Explosion theme, allowing the impressive guest list to move the groove in a variety of directions. From the cut'n'paste clamor of the great "Fed Up and Low Down" to the hip hop undercurrents of "Hot Gossip" and the gutbucket rhythm'n'blues of "Chunky" (which may be the Blues Explosion's most straightforward song ever), "Damage" sounds like a band reclaiming its greatness.
The Blues Explosion has always been about brash confidence, typified most usually by Spencer's gutteral howls and come-ons, promises of blooze power and rock'n'roll detonation. But that was merely lip service, teasing promises of some glory to come. "Damage" finally delivers.
This is not to say the entire album will throttle you into catatonia, there is a generous selection of Stonesy pop ("Crunchy"), bluesy ballads ("Spoiled") hip-hop ("Hot Gossip") and some DJ workouts ("Fed Up and Low Down") scattered about the album as well. Special guests include former Tricky singer Martina Topley-Bird, No-Wave icon James Chance, Public Enemy's Chuck D, DJ Shadow, Dan The Automator and the usual cast of dozens. Although all these collaborators make noticeable contributions to the tracks they're featured on, they never dominate the session.
"Damage," the first album for their new label, Sanctuary, arrives just in time to blow the dust off the JSBX collection slot on your shelf. Where "Plastic Fang" was all tepid rockers, "Acme" a stab at Stonesy pop coupled with DJ grooves, and "Now I Got Worry" their punk blues album, "Damage" hearkens back to the kick ass party grind that 1994's "Orange" laid claim to. For pure intensity and soul, Damage is now THE album in the Blues Explosion catalog, and essential listening at that.