I’ve mostly avoided the hullabaloo around Robin Thicke because I thought I didn’t care, but the truth is that it bugs the shit out of me. Not because I feel a need to defend him (but I will) or that I think he’s some amazing artist (who cares?) but because the hypocrisy of the whole thing is just obnoxious. I mean, really…are we really ready to surrender to the squares?
The basic argument against Thicke breaks down along two lines:
Another cool video from Jack White’s solo debut, Blunderbuss. “Freedom At 21” was directed by Hype Williams and features the briefest of cameos by Josh Homme who was clearly born to play a cop. My favorite detail is the prison girl’s Detroit tattoo. Is that a poke at his hometown or an appreciation of it? Could go either way, but the fact that the real star of the video is the Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda leads me to believe it’s a celebration of Motor City muscle at its finest.
As an extra bonus, here’s a live version of the song, recorded back in April.
When the White Stripes quietly called it a day last year, we were in still in the glow of Jack White’s many side-projects and production credits to really allow the news to sink in.
If the idea of a Stripeless world has finally got you down, a quick scan of the college radio playlists show there are plenty of suitable facsimiles. One of the better ones, Southampton’s Band of Skulls, released their sophomore album earlier this year, Sweet Sour, a record of consistent vintage gear blooze and bare-ass arrangements that point to an obvious indebtedness to White.
And then there’s Jack himself, foraging out into the solo abyss with Blunderbuss. Named after an old firearm, White checks to see if his aim is true when delivering a full length’s worth of music as attention grabbing as his previous explorations.
Band of Skulls seem content on building on White’s Dead Weather era, complete with a punchy power trio format and a young woman by the name of Emma Richardson to add a bit of sweetness to the crunch of their cavestomp.
Sweet Sour pines for the most basic of hooks, with frontman Russell Marsden following the always welcomed tradition of the Malcolm Young School of big riffs. Drummer Matt Hayward keeps everyone in line through the intimidating power of his four-speed rhythms, allowing Marsden’s chords to take center stage.
Like AC/DC, or even Dead Weather if you want to get down to it, Band of Skulls find the challenge is to find something lyrically worthy to make such a temper-tantrum with their guitars. After a bit of head-nodding, you begin to realize that the choruses are nothing more than clever song-titles repeated and their more somber moments sound like Marsden and Richardson’s brooding over endless loops of the acoustic guitar part of Zep’s “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You.”
You have to squint to see the cracks in Sweet Sour, and I am sure it will play nice in the various movies and commercials these tracks will inevitably get licensed to. There’s just really nothing more than the competency it exudes, forgoing any attempt to challenge the blueprint and prompting Sweet Sour to wallow in the very same indecisiveness that even its title suggest.
Is it sweet? Is it sour? No, it’s something bland and of little character from a power trio who seems too concerned with their own career path than really letting their heart show. Even the mistakes this album claims to have, seem intentionally placed just to give it a bit of dusty charm and by the end of side two’s slow tempo fade, you’ve already forgotten how good some of the riffs really were on the previous side.
On the other hand, Jack White is firmly committed to making his first solo effort a stark departure from his other work, exiling the riff for big, basement arrangements with emotional openness and a willingness to try new approaches. There’s no need to amend for any certain style when there’s a clean canvas with each new song, and White is clearly using different colors than he’s done in the past.
The stupid zip-gun guitar tone makes another unwelcome return, but making up for its presence is a solid-slew of new rhythms, surprising arrangements (the female vocals to Rudy Toombs “I’m Shakin’” are wonderful) and some of White’s most personal work to date.
One of the most prominent instruments throughout the record is his use of the upright piano, which adds to the homespun feel of Blunderbuss. It also cuts down on the need for White to embellish on his previous instrument of choice and add things like pedal steels, fiddles, Hammonds, and any other vintage instrument that he’s found in Nashville’s ample pawn shops.
Each vintage tone seems to be placed in the right environment, bridging the gap between the records he’s trying to emulate and the clever ways he works to get new listeners–hopefully younger ones–to open their minds to the tones of his influences.
Blunderbuss confirms White’s place within rock’s current royalty, and it marks a clear transition from White the band member, or even band leader, for that matter. The record is intended as a subtle departure from the sounds and tones of previous commitments, setting on a new direction where arrangements are carefully considered as well as the instruments that fill in the space.
The difference between the two offerings, other than the direct link that White provides? Band of Skulls seem intent on parlaying their blooze into bankroll, looking for their place next to other garage practitioners on the echelon of notoriety.
Meanwhile, Jack White seems to be making records that will match up next to the long players in his own collection, its success measured by the records it prompts you to discover.
I want love to roll me over slowly, stick a knife inside me, and twist it all around. I want love to grab my fingers gently, slam them in a doorway, put my face into the ground.
And that’s how Jack White introduces his debut solo album, Blunderbuss, due April 24 on Third Man Records/XL Recordings/Columbia. Background vocals from Nashville-based, Ghana-born Ruby Amanfu add a creepy, old-timey vibe.
The lack of drums on this song is an curious choice for a lead-off single. It sounds great, but it’ll be interesting to see how well this does commercially. Will the mainstream audience who eventually embraced the White Stripes get into this? Will the rivalry with the Black Keys spawn a resurgence of listenable, commercial rock and roll? (I hope so.) Maybe the Hives and the Strokes and Mooney Suzuki can put out new albums this year and it’ll be like 2001 all over again! (Unlikely.)
No question about it, Jack White’s got style. More than just about anyone else who’s not named Gaga, Jack White understands that an ounce of appearance is worth a pound of effort, and that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of effort in his work. He just makes it look effortless because he looks so goddamned good doing it.
This first video from his collaboration with rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson is another in a long line of examples with a tasty Dylan cover, “Thunder on the Mountain.” Backing the tiny Jackson with a band decked out in black and pink stage wear, White dances and stomps around his muse like a lovestruck hillbilly. Much like his earlier collaboration with Loretta Lynn, White knows how to embrace the elements and style of a genre without coming off as a parody. As someone who plays a lot of shows with bands with fake accents, I can tell you that ain’t easy to do.
The Party Ain’t Over is available on pre-order from White’s Third Man Records. First 1,000 orders come in an “exclusive Third Man greeting care gatefold sleeve,” 100 of which will randomly come with fuschia colored vinyl. Don’t you just love that sort of thing?
The latest single from her debut album, The Ghost Who Walks, out now on XL. I like this song—especially the organ—almost as much as I like Elson’s false eyelashes, but why do all the dudes in her band dress like White Stripes roadies?
It’s damn near impossible to hate Jack White. In fact, most complaints that I’ve heard or read are relatively superficial ones that have little to do with his music and more to do how his music is presented visually. White is a classicist rock musician, deeply rooted in and respectful of its past. It’s clear that he’s studied the records on his turntable intently and the footnotes of his term papers (or albums) are clearly audible.
Sea Of Cowards is the second album from the Dead Weather, a project where White finds himself behind the drum kit instead of center stage, even though the focus is squarely on his slight frame. I did a double take when I heard the band was releasing a new record as it was only last summer when they released their debut.
The Dead Weather will be streaming a live performance of their new album Sea of Cowards today on MySpace. The show will take place at Third Man Records‘ in Nashville. A guest list was created for members of TMR’s “Vault” record club to attend the show.
The band is scheduled to perform at 5:00pm EST. As of 7:13am today, the show is still on despite severe weather and flooding in the region.
Jeez, we can’t seem to go more than a week without Jack White dropping another single! Who’s he think he is, Berry Gordy? This one is the lead off single from the Dead Weather‘s sophomore effort, Sea of Cowards, due May 11 on Third Man/Warner Bros. I’m happy to see them spend some Warner dollars on a high-production video with costumes, sets, masks, special effects, and smoke machines. Badass. I also like how Jack is morphing into Johnny Depp and Alison Mosshart is gradually becoming indistinguishable from Meg.
Crazy to look back and realize how influential Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands have become. Who would’ve guessed?