Thursday, August 13, 2009

#9 Wasting My Time

The nature of Jack White's talents are such that he has an extremely loyal and passionate fanbase that can be divided into two main categories. The first are those who love The White Stripes at their roughest and toughest, still buy everything the man produces, but honestly think Satan and Icky Thump were overdone, cringe when a new 'side-project' is announced and secretly wish for another White Blood Cells. The second are those who religiously follow everything the man does and find themselves instantly in love with everything he's laid his hands on from Let's Shake Hands to Another Way To Die. Of course I'm of the latter otherwise this blog would get tedious post-Elephant and I'd be violently rambling about 'the good old days'. The thing is, however, that as much as I worship all of his output there is one song that I find difficult and unless you thought I was being irrelevant you can see that it's Wasting My Time. The reason is that it contains countless elements that would find their way onto other White Stripes song and used more effectively and the fact that this one is pulled out almost every concert has put it in my mind that this is a song of slight tedium.

Which is quite sad because the original studio track has a lot going for it and so many things that make the White Stripes their unmistakably great selves are present here, some of them making their debut, but as I said before they've all been used better. Perhaps it's unfair to criticize a song based on tracks further down the line making it obsolete, in fact it's definitely unfair but I'd be lying if I didn't write down what these ears were telling me. Maybe that's the flaw of the first album, after all nothing is perfect, that so much of the inspiration present on their debut was taken over to future albums making those songs refined but unlike most bands it lacks the edge over those albums because the brash and uncontrollable explosiveness was never lost.

The guitar though is what makes it a great listen. It's all over the place with messy licks and uneasy tremelo but it works greatly to the bands advantage because with all the flaws of the guitars exposed you get to hear the fine little intricacies of what the pick-ups are sending out. It's this that I call pure guitar work. Jack frequently compares Meg's playing to Picasso's statement "it took years to learn how to paint like a child" but people frequently fail to see that in his guitar work. While we know he can be a supreme virtuosity the style here is just as compelling, emulating a child, knowing nothing but chords, pouring everything he has into the guitar as he strums. That's mainly why I started this blog, because when you dig only a little deeply you can find how Jack's personal philosophy manifests itself in the music. Here the childlike simplicity is exhibited as something precious rather than the self-conscious irony that the band are frequently misinterpreted as possessing.

It's hard to see why, when I'm praising this musical enlightenment of 1999 that I look upon this particular tune so harshly but I'll say it again: you can experience this sensation in numerous other songs of theirs and sadly just because this one did it first doesn't mean it's top dog. The vocals I also find pedestrian for Jack White; there's nothing wrong with them but we take for granted that in his more emotional songs, something I believe this one was going for, he is prone to really putting everything on the table and we don't quite get that here. Similarly with the lyrics, while there are flashes of something brilliant it never reaches finality the same way other songs on this album do. However I feel it's worth mentioning the line:

And I hope I'm not a fool
For laughing at myself as you were going

This deserves a place as one of the greatest lines about a lack of self-confidence (until Martyr For My Love For You comes along) and manages to elevate the song from a simple feeling of dismay to grander tragedy.

There's definitely a lot to like here and be sure that this is as negative as I'll get but I can't help how I feel. I'd certainly never skip this track but listening to it and talking about it at length simply brings to mind the other great songs in the bands repertoire.

Note: Let me apologies for the slow pace at the moment. I know there are few people reading but this is a bad start. It's difficult to write about this album because, while I love it, it achieves it's brilliance with a mindless explosion of distortion soaked Detroit anger and that can be hard to talk about for 17 songs. But I will soldier on and hopefully say something interesting. Keep posted though because in the near future this blog may evolve into something more than just a bunch of essays and will deliver some true treats to all you Jack fans.

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