Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cymbal #20:: Jack White is like PT Barnum

You have to admire it. The man never wants to quit trying new things. He's a wild uncontrollable ball of blues jam energy.

The Raconteurs & Alison Mosshart - Steady as She Goes - 2008

In this video, he cuts off to the wings to try a new vocal distortion effect (which fails spectacularly, leaving Mosshart laughing), because he's just tired playing a great song which works perfectly fine if you just leave it alone. He's like a little kid with a Hot Wheels set; have you ever noticed how they never leave well enough alone, how they keep introducing new externalities to their immaculately company-provided daddy-set-up loops and ramps?

The reason I'm walking this path is that everyone's talking, whispering, wagging-tongues-and-tails about The Dead Weather, White's latest project, where Jack goes back to drumming like he's wearing a marching hat and Alison Mosshart wrestles with the mic with the intimacy of a family feud. It's an experiment I wish worked anywhere as well as The Raconteurs does, but it lacks the glue of a single set of visions, and of less than that, you cannot make writ.

Like 19th century showman PT Barnum, Jack White brings new things to the brighter lights. Which is how I found The Kills.

The Kills - Sour Cherry - 2008

Lo-fi verve rock, like a primitive bestial tailswipe to the face. The attitude strains halfway through but you see something in it - a conviction that some thing here is worth preserving. Mosshart's voice has genuine presence, the ability to fill up a recording chamber, to leave a fingerprint in the spectrum.

But white tigers, pygmies and strongmen apart, the circus is about the Ringmaster, be it Mr. Galliano from your childhood, the cynical cigar-smelling Barnum or someone closer home. Study this all the way to the end:

The White Stripes - Death Letter - 2006

More than anything, Jack White does what nobody else in music has the balls to do. He throws himself into the fiery pit of innovation and emotion that is the blues and slathers himself up joyfully, gets dirty with it, revels in the lick and the exegesis of it all, on his knees, on his back, makes it his own, sweats and bleeds it out. Many can play the blues bluesy, porching peacefully; but who can rail and pitch funeral hellfire like this man? Who can tame these demons?

And with that, Cymbal is a score of issues old. I'm frankly amazed that I didn't quit after the first five. A stocktaking is in order. Should this continue clogging up your mailboxes? Should this move to a blog (exclusively/as well)? Ideas? Feedback?

Also, anyone who came late and wants back issues, just whistle. You know how to whistle don't you?

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