Wednesday, November 18, 2009
While most songwriting debuts (and to be fair this isn’t Jack’s actual first song) are overshadowed by their significance and underwhelming in terms of quality Screwdriver is surprisingly masterful. It’s a real ‘get your ya-yas out’ and while I’ve already said this about a few other tracks, it manages to perfectly define the band in a single song. While not necessarily superior to the other milestone Let’s Shake Hands, Screwdriver is considerably more complex employing greater dynamics and a larger variety of motifs. It’s chock full of all the goodies, the killer hook, the clever rhymes, the loud climax and the softer and subdued moments. It’s all you need in 3 minutes.
As fun as the lyrics are the song, like about half of Jack’s work is built around one grand infectious riff that announces the songs beginning and from there we’re taken to many places and back. While Meg taps away Jack rambles away his brilliant stream-of-conscious rhymes over the soft strum of his guitar. Some of the couplets, while pretty nonsensical, are quite brilliant.
I call up Tommy now, call him on the telephone
Why don’t you wake up and come with me now
I’m going to the pawn and lone
What Jack is singing about is really nothing particularly special but the way it all comes together is quite effective. While Jack’s latest songwriting has become a sort of southern gothic style, due in no small part to his change of environment, here there is a greater influence of Detroit’s nature. Infusing a surrealist flow of words and banal bits of modernity, it’s almost like industrial beat poetry, which we see all throughout the album.
But ultimately what most makes Screwdriver memorable is it’s simplest moment, one that is illustrated best in concert. Jack and Meg, eyes fixed on each other, slamming out that power chord in sets of three with no consistent rythm holding the sound and silence together. All that is being relied upon is the near telepathic quality that holds the two together. It’s this that makes the band special and what 10 years of touring has been built around. So we really owe this song a lot.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Considering how simple and understated the song sounds Sugar Never Tasted So Good leaves an impression on the listener that it holds something special. For those of us who follow Jack White’s musical output closely you can see here how his rough blues-orientated brand of rock and roll could give way for more delicate songs which will go on to become more prominent in De Stjil, Get Behind Me Satan and most importantly his partnership with Brendan Benson. But compared to the poetics Satan or the clever pop dynamics of De Stjil this song is a much less intellectual effort by which I mean it forgoes thoughtful lyrical complexities for words of greater emotional depth. So it comes as no great surprise that Jack wrote this at the tender age of 19, or so the legend goes.
As you may have not noticed there has been a considerable gap between this post and the last one. The reason for this is because I was having troublle finding the main theme of what to talk about. At first I thought I’d discuss how we finally get to see Jack’s softer side but that seemed like an underdeveloped an obvious approach. There was an alternative angle discussing how the bands live interpretation of this song is a representation of a shared philosophy of live performances with Bob Dylan but that would have been mainly filler, bullshit with a tiny amount of worthwile observations. The reason I’m mentioning this is not for my own indulgence but to illustrate that Sugar Never Tasted So Good is difficult to talk about and I say that with the best of intentions.
It’s a song that compells and mystifies the listener. In a more naive state than the writer of later years Jack passes by a more self-conscious writing style to expose an honest and heartfelt song. The lyrics are often repetitive and never show a clear meaning and the fact that Jack never tries to intefer with this makes it more honest. It highlights his constantly spoken of search for truth. Speaking of how he develops his projects Jack explains that if something beautiful presents itself he believes he does not have the right to stop it or force it into something. While this is often taken as reference to the recording process you can see how it applies to the writing process as well. The song is unrefined and natural with all the emotion of it’s performer poured into it. In songs like these we can understand why Jack White is a soldier of truth.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
As I write this entry I’m currently on a flight between Sydney and London. It’s an economy flight so, while it’s better than the one screen per cabin, the entertainment options are reasonably limited. You have a selection of movies, television shows, games and most interestingly a selection of CDs to choose from. On an economy flight you’d expect that the music would have to “appeal to the masses” (that wasn’t meant to come out so elitist) so as I browsed the selections I secretly hoped I’d find The White Stripes so I could illustrate a point and lo and behold there was Icky Thump. The point I’m trying to make is that now the White Stripes are an accepted commercial force. They are no longer music’s best kept secret, appreciated by casual music fans all over the world. As I’m about to delve into the first album, which it’s easy to forget was a really small release, you’d expect me to comment on how, what once was an untamed band shifted it's sound to appeal to a broader audience. Well I’m not because if you played me Jimmy The Exploder back in 1999 my comments would’ve been “these guys will be big”.
In a recent review of Jack’s latest group, The Dead Weather, the writer described Jack as someone who played rock the way it should be played, but so rarely is. I couldn’t agree more with this. It really does frustrate me when someone says that Rock n Roll is uninteresting and that I should listen to the leyered and “cutting edge” sounds of more textured bands, which often to me sound pretentious and hollow. At the same time a majority of modern rock n roll is mindless and monotonous becoming more of an AC/DC tribute act than anything of vague artistic importance. It’s hard to advocate more with less when it’s rarely pulled off so that’s why I put my faith in Jack because he can do it better than anyone else.
Jimmy The Exploder is one of the best arguments for more with less and while it’s all but vanished from the bands set lists it’s holds an important place in their discography. With Let's Shake Hands you are taken back by the sheer raw power of it and are sucked into the bands ethos. In a way there’s almost an element of shock value in it, although I don’t want to discredit the song, and as an opening single it’s amazing but you couldn’t have a whole album of it so when The White Stripes open up their first album they need to prove they can do more. And they do prove it. There’s an opening catchy drum beat, a cool riff, surrealist lyrics, a wordless vocal shout along and a tempo change but most importantly it’s all done with two people. As Jack says why would you need a bass playing the root notes and a second guitar playing the chords when all music requires is three elements? That’s what the band is about, breaking down music to it’s core elements and, if after being broken down, a rich and full song can be performed than the principal works. In that way Jimmy The Exploder single handedly proves their philosophy to be an applicable one.
I could talk about the song in a deeper examination but it seems pointless. You could strain yourself talking about Jack's bizarre intentions with his lyrics (something about an angry monkey?) or mention the stylistic similarities between this riff and the one in Lafayette Blues but at the end of the day, as the albums brief opener, Jimmy The Exploder is a song that wants to get straight to the point, down and dirty. The album itself contains plenty of moments of both lyrical and musical depth but this is just an appetizer. You’ll want to dance along, sing along, air drum and most importantly you’ll want to keep listening.
And so begins my exploration of The White Stripes, hopefully I will get these done quickly but in the mean time: comment! If you like what you're hearing, say something. Even better if you don't like what you're hearing, say something louder.