The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s 1996 Now I Got Worry takes me back. I mean, it really takes me back. Back to a time that seems like it was in a galaxy long ago and far, far away, where the world was a decidedly different place. Maybe that’s why I have trouble going back to an album like this on a regular basis regardless of how much it kicks; nostalgia is a relative phenomenon, relative to the experiencer, and the older you get the more it plays a funny game with time. The world early-20’s Shawn experienced in the mid 90’s was relatively different from the world that existed twenty years before that, so much so that at the time the late 60’s/early 70’s seemed archaic in many ways. However, jump up another twenty or so years and you land here in the NOW and guess what? Relative perspective – perceived through me as the aforementioned experiencer of course – shows that 1996 really wasn’t that different from 1976 or even 1966, because 2016/17 is exponentially different than that starting point in our time line.
1996 to 2016? Almost unfathomable gulfs of difference between the two.
Looking out at the world on a daily basis this might not always seem to be the case, after all, the ‘relativity’ I’ve referenced is a kind of experiencial axis our minds revolve around the sun on, and change as a proper noun affects that process of revolution slowly, and in little bits that slowly erode the present and make way for the future in a very non-ostentatious way. But certain things…
Ah! Now we get to the nostalgia*, because when I listen to a record like Now I Got Worry, suddenly I see that the distance between the two points on our map as immeasurable, and yeah, that hurts. Am I still the same person I was in 1996? No. Do I want to be the same person? No. Do I miss that person? No, because I’m better at being ‘me’ now, i.e. more fully formed by all the experiences that have come between. That said, I certainly miss the people, places and things that the 1996 version of myself is associated with: Grez, Sonny V., Mr. Brown, Capt. Jack, Jay Crackrocksi, Two Foot to name a few. None of these names will mean a damn to most of you reading this but if you know me, even if just through my writing, then you know them. These people are all still very much in my life, but time elapsed = distance and there’s a huge distance between our lives in 2017 (I live a couple thousand miles from all of them). These folks all continue to exist in my world; they’ve become tulpas, psychic characters that inhabit my head and my world and I reference them often. But that’s fairly insubstantial when you’ve had world-defining experiences with them in flesh and blood. And those experiences are mostly in the past. JSBX brings that past to the forefront and, while it’s absolutely a pleasurable feeling, it’s also a painful one. And yet, sometimes I hear an album like this in a new way – like two nights ago when I began writing this piece – and the nostalgia bubble pops and runs down the side and I am left with… with… well, I am left with some pretty damn awesome music.
According to Wikipedia, Now I Got Worry is the seventh studio album by JSBX; I thought it came earlier in their chronology but it doesn’t matter where Worry falls because it is awesome! A muddy, stinky, slammin’ sixteen tracks that are as low down as they are lo-fi; as dirty as you can get while keeping your clothes on. And why not? Spencer says it in Worry‘s 1998 follow-up Acme, specifically the song “Talk About the Blues“:
“I don’t play no blues!
I play Rock n Roll!”
Juxtapose that with the band’s name – the BLUES EXPLOSION – and you get the gist pretty quick: these fuckers strapped a pipe bomb to the blues, leveraged it with a cigarette timer and then blew it to high hell. What emerged was not unlike the outcome of explosions in nuclear era cautionary tales (an era that directly preceded, actually bumped up into the origin of the band and thus would have directly informed it): a mutant. A mutant with the soul of the blues but the body of hell fire rock n roll, complete with the gospels Spencer belts out on pretty much every song (Testify!). And that mutant is just as appealing as all the other mutants our culture is obsessed with: Logan, Godzilla, Joker, Jesus, etc. It’s also a lot more randy than the others. Randy, sexy and black out fucked-up. And hey, we all have to blow off steam. So, why not hit play and do that now, as Friday brings you into the weekend? Crack a beer, pour a stiff three fingers, nurture your pig and BLOW THE GODDAMN WINDOWS OUT!
Favorite tracks: 14 and 15.
Oh, and if you dig it, buy it.
* And as I type this Ozzy is singing “I was looking back on my life in the background
Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.