Russell Simins: Boston Middle East

Sometime Jon Spencer Blues Explosion drummer proves he's no Phil Collins when it comes to going solo...

If Spinal Tap taught us anything, it’s that drummers are not only combustible, but also expendable. As for solo careers, well… they’re not really recommended. Sure there’s Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters, and ‘Breakout’, but then again, there’s also Phil Collins and ‘Against All Odds’. So when the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s funky drummer, Russell Simins takes center stage for his solo show, even the most devoted of Grand Royal’s shell-toed worshipers look justifiably worried.

As it turns out, just because it’s Jon Spencer that’s always yelling “number one!” doesn’t mean that Simins is merely number three. In fact, Simins has enough sloganeering, wonky violin loops, synthesizer squiggle and fuzz box blowout crammed into ‘I’m Not A Model’ to make the whole room want to shout “goddamn!”

The sweaty mass’s mindless, machine-gun-funk and JSBX Jones’ satiated, we turn from Simins: shouter/noisemaker to Simins: singer/songwriter. Some of the folksier tunes are iffy – ‘Everything Falls Apart’ smells vaguely of Hootie & The Blowfish – but when Simins plays the triumphantly earnest ‘Comfortable Place’, he shows off a skill Jon Spencer has never had: subtlety. Where Spencer trumps him is in cocky showmanship. Simins is still clearly more confident banging the drums than manning a guitar up front. Luckily, the fetching singer, Amanda offsets the awkwardness, playing a shimmying Cher to his sappy Sonny for the hip-hop-headed tete-a-tete, ‘Scope’.

So Russell Simins has beaten the odds – he doesn’t blow and he hasn’t blown up. So Russell, if you’re going to be getting it on in any more public places, can we come and watch?

Ben Wolford