Third Man Records is pleased to share the genius surprise gift they received from their friend MICHEL GONDRY. On his own and without anyone’s knowledge, the legendary filmmaker shot a video for “City Lights,” which he sent them the other night. The video is Gondry’s fifth visual collaboration with The White Stripes.
It’s a cool video and a good song. I’ve been a little skeptical of Jack White’s Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016 compilation. At first it seemed like a cheap cash-grab built around the discovery of one newly uncovered White Stripes outtake (“the first new, worldwide commercially released song by The White Stripes since 2008”). I mean, come on, right? Everything else on this comp has been previously released in one form or another.
Plus, even “City Lights” — which was apparently written for Get Behind Me Satan “but then forgotten until White revisited the 2005 album for Third Man’s Record Store Day 2015 vinyl reissue” — is a little dubious. White admits “the track was finished in 2016 with help from collaborator and childhood friend Dominic Davis.” Where’s Meg? How much of this recording is White Stripes and how much is solo Jack White? Were any vocals recorded back in 2005? Were lyrics even written for it at the time? (Third Man Records did not immediately respond to our query.)
There’s something to be said for recontextualizing the work of an artist. And this is the first collection of Jack White’s songwriting that covers multiple bands and projects. And it presents a different angle than just “Jack White, guitar hero.” This side has been there from the get-go, for anybody paying attention and actually listening to the albums, but I can see the value in putting all the pretty stuff together in one spot. So there we have it.
And there’s more rare stuff than just “City Lights.” There’s the acoustic mix of the jingle White wrote for Coca Cola (“Love Is the Truth”) plus a handful of remixes of other songs. And one of the songs he did for that Renée Zellweger movie. So I probably shouldn’t be such a grump about it. And hey: new White Stripes song!
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:
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.
It’s over. According to an announcement on their website, Jack and Meg White “will make no further new recordings or perform live” together as the White Stripes.
I’ve always felt a connection between the band and this web site. We have similar roots, being from Michigan and digging the sixties garage rock scene. GLONO’s first bit of national exposure came when we sent Jeff Sabatini to the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in downtown Detroit in May 2002 with $15 to purchase an official copy of Jack and Meg’s 1996 marriage license. We were the first place to publish that document online.
But that wasn’t the first time we had covered the band. Johnny Loftus caught them at the Empty Bottle way back in July 2001, and we’ve kept tabs on them ever since.
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?
You’ve still got a few days to bid on the marimba used by the White Stripes on their 2005-06 Get Behind Me Satan world tour. All proceeds go to the Nashville Chapter of the Red Cross to help victims of the recent floods. At this time, the current bid is $3,050. Bidding closes on May 24.
Note, this is not the same marimba used to record the album: “that marimba was deemed too large and not red-and-white enough to be used by the band live.”
Below are the things we’ve posted to Twitter recently. In reverse chronological order, just like Twitter… We’re reposting 128 tweets this time with a total of 84 links to stuff that (mostly) didn’t end up on GLONO.
# “Suddenly, you realized that every great band or musician you love also loved Alex Chilton and Big Star; it’s certain.” http://ow.ly/1ozyj about 2 hours ago
# Jack White (cont): “In the end she’s laughing all the way to the Prada handbag store. She wins every time.” http://ow.ly/1oze3 about 2 hours ago
# Jack White (cont): “For that, they repay her with gossip and judgment.” http://ow.ly/1ozcj about 2 hours ago
# Jack White on Meg: “She can do what those with ‘technical prowess’ can’t. She inspires people to bash on pots and pans.” http://ow.ly/1oza1 about 2 hours ago
# “This line here, ‘Bring your friend, her friend and a blender’…? That’s real good.” http://ow.ly/1oyqP about 2 hours ago
# #FF @loudersoft for delivering the Chilton scoop without any sense of self-aggrandizement. about 6 hours ago
# RT @MOJOmagazine: Alex Chilton 1950 – 2010. A personal tribute to the reluctant Big Star legend, by Martin Aston. http://tinyurl.com/yez8xw2 about 6 hours ago
Lots more below, and you might consider following us on Twitter if you want to keep up with this stuff as it happens…
• DVD of the documentary film The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights, directed by Emmett Malloy (92 minutes)
• DVD of the band’s 10th Anniversary show, The White Stripes Under Nova Scotian Lights, directed by Emmett Malloy (135 minutes)
• The first-ever official live album from The White Stripes, featuring 16 songs recorded at various shows during their 2007 Canadian tour on both vinyl and CD. The double LP comes pressed on 180 gram black vinyl packaged in a gatefold jacket with a 6 panel insert unique to the box set. The CD accompanies the film and Anniversary show DVDs in a special 7″ square 3 panel folder along with a 24 page bound booklet and slipcase.
• 7 inch vinyl featuring Icky Thump (Live) and The Wheels On The Bus (Live). Two versions available with different artwork and color of vinyl depending on your country of residence.
• 208 page hard cover book containing photographs of the Canadian tour shot by Autumn de Wilde with a foreword by Jim Jarmusch.
• 1 of 6 different silk-screened prints designed by Rob Jones.
Amazon pre-orders are listed at $355.49 and are slated to ship March 16.
Live performance footage from the the White Stripes‘ 10th Anniversary show that is featured in the DVD films The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights and Under Nova Scotian Lights. DVDs available as part of a limited edition box set. O Canada!
Weird Al pays homage to Match Game guest star Charles Nelson Reilly via the White Stripes in his latest video. Unfortunately, Al’s guitar tone doesn’t even come close to Jack White‘s, even if the riff is spot on. What’s the deal, Al? Couldn’t find a rental shop in L.A. with a vintage Airline? Giddyup, Gene!
Equally disappointing is the fact that Al has disabled embedding of the video. Boo! [Updated to embed the video, which now Al graciously allows. -ed. 8/4/2017] Get some real Charles Nelson Reilly relief after the jump… Go!