SummaryOn their self-titled debut album, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion had worked out the basic framework of their sound -- lots of guitar clatter, booming drums and wild vocal gesticulations from Spencer -- but it took a while for the pieces to really come together, and 1993's Extra Width was the first album where they revealed their true potential. The opening tune, "Afro," provides the key -- Spencer and Judah Bauer's guitars lock in with a sharp call and response, drummer Russell Simins pounds the kit with the force of a punk rocker but the groove of a soul man, and the organ that chimes in with the band slyly pays homage to any number of classic funk sides while adding a good, greasy undertow to the sound. The Blues Explosion were never any kind of blues band (as they freely admitted when anyone bothered to ask), but on Extra Width they copped to the fact they'd learned a lot from classic R&B of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, and after spending the better part of a year on the road their studying and hard work paid off. Not everything on Extra Width comes together with the precise chaos of "Afro," but practically every track feels like a better song and a stronger performance than anything on the debut album, and the layers of vocal reverb, keyboard patches, and dubwise studio effects showed that JSBX had learned a lot about the possibilities of the studio since the bare-bones sessions that produced their earliest recordings. If The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion sounded like the work of a band that was a natural evolution from what Spencer was doing with Pussy Galore, Extra Width made it clear they were something quite a bit different -- still crazed and noisy, but with lots more soul, some butt-shaking tunes, and a sense of fun thoroughly absent from the earlier group.
2010, Majordomo Records, an imprint of Shout! Factory, released a new edition of Extra Width as part of their series of remastered and expanded Blues Explosion reissues, and for hardcore fans this package is overstuffed with goodies. Extra Width and its companion album, the outtakes collection Mo' Width, both appear in full on disc one, and the remastered audio is sharp and vibrant throughout. Disc two features 64 minutes of relevant single sides, alternate takes, and unreleased numbers, including a seven-song live-in-the-studio session cut for a radio broadcast. If disc two isn't as consistent as disc one, it still rocks plenty hard, and the live material confirms that this band never dogged it in front of an audience. The package also includes a booklet packed with rare photos -- including one that finally reveals the source of the title -- and a lengthy essay by Mike Edison; if this isn't the final and definitive version of this album, it's hard to say what could be.