Posts from 11th April 2003

Apr 03

White Stripes –

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White Stripes – Elephant
“Realness”, in pop, is a deeply silly idea/ideal. Show me a wholly “real” artist and I’ll show you a profoundly boring personality. But you can’t, so there’s no worry. There’s nothing “real” about the White Stripes, or even faux-real, which makes most of the words written about them worthless at best. Jack White (and, no offence to Meg or to women everywhere, but it’s clear that Jack is the musical brains of the operation, y’know?) is as contrived as you or I when he throws himself into the public arena (there’s nothing more embarassing than a writer who claims/feigns “realness” when they are clearly coming at 90% of their subjects through nine layers of distance, not all of them their own.) He is a synthesist, although the materials he synthesizes are rather low on the futurist grocery list: AC/DC, Zeppelin, Queen, The Gories..any jabs at “The Blues” are filtered through suburban sequins, two decades of indie rock, and .75 thrift-store scores. So purposeful obfuscation in the service of one-upping them (3 = 313 = 313PHANT = the Detroit area code, y’see?) just looks silly, like a bunch of prep school kids needling the stoners. But there I go with that realness thing again…

Jack White, like many before him and many after him, is a classical indie songwriter: he is writing songs in his bedroom to be played by other people in their bedrooms. Except instead of Big Star and the third Velvets album, it’s hard rock. But the end result – bedroom music for bedroom people – is still the same. And if you think the world has lost it’s need for such things, then I envy your cosmopolitan lifestyle. Even still, you feel as if there’s something slightly inhibited about it: another collection of demos. Elephant is not a perfect album, although it makes tentative steps towards an “advancement”, such as it is, of the Stripes sound. (Dig the multi-tracking on the harmonies, fer instance.) Jack White is a good – sometimes great – songwriter, but without a shot of ambition and a decent rhythm section he’s never going to escape that bedroom is going to become a tomb. I can’t help think that his heroes – up there in cock rock heavent – are frowning upon his “communal good naturedness” getting in the way of his world-straddling, cod-piece and coke spoon success.