Tuesday, September 28, 2010

#18 Slicker Drips

You can never really have too much of a good thing, or can you? I’ve spoken at length about the adrenaline soaked bashers of mindless fury and I’m running out of adjectives. I’ve claimed each one takes it a step up from the last and I’ll do the same again because Slicker Drips really does take the cake for the most vicious assault of noise. Time signatures aren’t constant, verses and choruses aren’t present and if that guitar breakdown fits into any type of conventional classification of a solo then I will eat my own hat (or that cool new one Jack has been seen in a lot lately). So is it good? Oh yeah, guess you can’t have too much of a good thing.

For all the strength of the album cut, Slicker Drips can be considered one of the ‘lost songs’ that never really made it into future sets. From what we know it was played twice before the album’s release and a mere five times after, never making it beyond 2001. It wouldn’t be completely outlandish to suggest Jack thought the song didn’t have the chops to sit along side later work and while I do like this song I think it’s a fair judgment. The elements that drive the album cut can be seamlessly worked into any live song and the meager running time doesn’t exactly offer much to play on in concert. But the song still holds it’s own on the LP. Ben Blackwell one described his love for the debut LP because after bootlegging these songs for so long he could finally here the words accompanying the music he was so familiar with. Finally the ‘Dylanesque poetry’, in his words, was revealed… Really Ben? Frankly I can’t hear a damn here, and it’s true of a lot of the album. Maybe Jack shrieked his words away out of shyness, masking his cleverness to the purist Detroit garage snobs or maybe he merely didn’t have confidence in them. Most probably it was just his natural inclination to perform them this way because there’s a certain natural balance that is restored with these performances. The less you can hear the lyrics the more impassioned the performance is, so it works either way. But really you don’t have to hear the lyrics to Slicker Drips to get the gist of what he means:

And I'm in the middle
With nobody to love
Nobody to love
Nobody to love
Nobody to love

I had to look up the lyrics for the first time when writing this entry and honestly my opinion has not changed one bit in regards to this song. If you tried to decipher the song phonetically you could easily come up with ‘nobody to hold’, ‘nobody to hug’ or ‘nobody to rob’. Aurally they all make sense but you instinctively know it’s something close to the first two (or, you know, the actual lyric) because anyone wailing that loudly along to a wall of buzzing guitars (well guitar, but you almost wouldn’t know) must be seriously love sick. And that’s the point that I’ve been aimlessly drifting towards here: performance, not melody or lyrics, can often be the most expressive aspect of the song, and this is an idea that often is the key force behind Jack White’s appeal. So while Jack definitely has a way with words let’s just be honest and say that sometimes they don’t really need to be audible. The sentiment is in the groove (or in the MP3 file if you wish) so stop reading this and play the fucking song. Loud.

3 comments:

  1. i'm so glad you are back and writing. to be honest i have never paid a whole lot of attention to this song. i do really like it though. thanks for taking me through it and pointing out things that i had never even thought about.

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  2. Well said! I've always felt this song was unfortunately underrated as well.

    And I whole-heartedly agree: Performance (and the emotion ingrained in it) is the intangible aspect that makes The White Stripes work. There are moments on "Icky Thump" for example, when I wish the lyrics were not quite so audible and complex,("Martyr for my Love for You", "You Don't Know What Love Is"...) and that they would return to this sort of raucousness.

    Keep writing, please! I can't wait until you make it to "Elephant"...

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  3. I actually overlooked this song entirely until I got around to reading the lyrics. I agree with you that the impassioned delivery is what ultimately gives the song its power, but the imagery is what defines it. "Floor below me, ceiling above, and I'm in the middle..." Who hasn't been there, in that lonely place, at least once in their life?

    And I'll agree with the other commenters here-- Good to see another song post from you. Your insights went a long way towards getting me into the first album.

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