Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman
Rock formalists love Jack White because they believe he encompasses everything it’s supposed to be about. His watershed 21st Century infusion of punk and blues notwithstanding, I alternately find him hilarious and unbearable. So badly does he want to be different that he constantly insists his adoring fans are very much unlike him, which is true on numerous levels, but there’s no getting around the commonalities connecting him and swathes of plebeians around the globe. I’ll wait until he’s committed war crimes to take him at his word.
THE GO – Whatcha Doin’ (Sub Pop ’99): Detroit garage rockers Bobby Harlow, John Krautner, and Marc Fellis were kicked off their label after record execs deemed follow-up Free Electric too loud—though to Sub Pop’s credit, they’ve somehow managed to remain obscure in light of holding the (dis)honor of being Jack White’s “old” band. The intentional under-producing for authenticity’s sake (irony’s a bitch, ain’t it?) masks Harlow’s guttural howls and mush mouth delivery under guitar mash freakout, casting the band as little more than Stooges-posturing, we-live-in-Detroit-and-don’t-have-a-proper-garage aesthetes. With blues as afterthought if at all anythought, its greatest strength is its sexual internal rhythm. It’s dirty. It’s raunchy. It’s “ooh I gotta fuck you right now” music. And it’s lovely. A MINUS
JACK WHITE – Blunderbuss (Third Man/XL Recordings): I couldn’t care less whether Jack takes cracks at his professional and/or romantic relationship with Meg because his riffs are larger than his worldview. Despite undeniable hints sprinkled here and there, detractors take a leap of faith assuming every song is slighting the drummer. Make what you will of his excuses; personally I find his claim of only releasing a solo record in the wake of The White Stripes so as to differentiate his identity from the duo dubious—Blunderbuss plays more like an amalgamation of his past than a signature solo statement sans White Stripes, perhaps the most obvious insult to his ex-partner doubling as the album’s biggest weakness. For all their worrying, fretters over White’s words should recall his unpredictable and sometimes haphazard musical ventures and subject matter therein, a testament to his longstanding relationship with classic blues motifs and personal bizarro eccentricities. So even if claims of Meg-bashing are accurate, it still wouldn’t make White the first or most recent vindictive misogynist bluesman. But given his long record of facetiousness, hasn’t anyone else figured out that the blunderbuss mentioned isn’t the women scorned song-to-song but the sop with a vulture perched on his shoulder on the cover? A MINUS
ALABAMA SHAKES – Boys & Girls (ATO): Brittany Howard’s Deep South roots-rockers proceed without a hint that the 00’s blues/punk revival ever took place. Or the 70’s, for that matter. (“I Found You,” “Heartbreaker”) ***
The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Africa (World Music Network): Jams not as aimless as the Grateful Dead, but jams, mostly. And African. (Victor Uwaifo, “Guitar Boy”; Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo, “Pardon”) *
THE WALKMEN – Heaven (Fat Possum): Phil Ek Fleet Foxes-ifies what John Congleton perfected on Lisbon with results far less than perfect. (“Heartbreaker,” “Song For Leigh”) *