Sweet Torture

Torture – Jon Spencer Blues Explosion from Acme

Jon Spencer has been a musical provocateur for a long time, from naming his first band Pussy Galore to referencing the Willie Horton ’88 election campaign ads in his first Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (JSBX for brevity’s sake).  Even deeper, Spencer’s vocal stylings seem meant to be divisive.  Affecting a sneering Elvis impersonator for his JSBX work, I’ve found that people either get on board with what Spencer’s doing with his vocals or you hate it.  Frankly, I don’t understand the hate, as it fits the musical style of their music to a T; but then there’s other vocalists with whom I’m guilty of not getting past their voices.  I could also see Elvis purists finding what JSBX is doing to be musical trash.

This is definitely a more mellow, downtempo JSBX track.  A languid bluesy guitar hook punctuated by drums and a pretty piano flourish provide the backdrop for Spencer.  With a syrupy delivery in line with the music Spencer sings a sometimes hard to understand opening volley, “Torture/that’s what it is/I’m really mixed up baby/Torture/It got to me the same.”  As the track continues, a falsetto chorus of “oohs and ahhas” accompanies his vocals, providing a nice counterbalance to Spencer’s deep voice.  Later on in the song, Spencer gives a 1-2 shout-out to Johnny Cash and Iggy Pop (two people I would think have had to influenced Spencer) as he sings “You know I walk the line/I’m gonna be your dog.”

About halfway through the track there’s a moment when you think they’re going to open up, but it’s a mirage.  A short guitar solo and a little harder drumming quickly ends, and the track settles back down for Spencer to continue singing about the woman he cannot spend “every minute of every hour of every day” with.  The sentiments Spencer sings about after the breakdown (the lyrics before maybe not so much) are sweet and ones I can relate to after having to carry on a cross-country relationship for over a year.  Being away from someone you love can be torture.  And Spencer captures this while at the same time giving you an escape as you rock along with his drawl.


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