...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The New Rock Giant

The following is not based on any empirical nor scientific evidence but instead is backed by hubris and bluster:

Thanks to the speed of the news cycle as well as the overmarketing of assumed 'cool', our culture has a great deal of trouble permanently defining an active entertainment or art figure as a great, legend, or giant. We see a movie that we like, but then we watch it shoved down the populace's throat on the internet, TV, billboards, and trailers. It gets covered in People, Entertainment Weekly, and that annoying color section in the Sunday paper. We see this gorgeous girl in that movie and suddenly she's on the cover of InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Maxim, Esquire, and GQ. Then the movie winds up tanking at the box office or the director is revealed as a pedophilic shoplifter. The girl backs into a mailbox with her Mercedes and the cops find two guns and an eighth of blow in her glove box.

But I'd like to buck this trend. Not the cocaine in the glove box trend, but rather the slaying of giants. In my previous post, in my highly critical way, I billed Daniel Day-Lewis as a giant. And now I'm here announce another one.

Mr. Jack White.

I have always been a fan. The first four White Stripes albums have provided so much joy in my life as I sit through traffic, slog through work, run on the treadmill, and daydream on the weekend. After Elephant, I labelled him a Genius. Then the next two White Stripes albums were released and the first Raconteurs album came out. I still held him in the same high regard, knowing that there's no one else out there who wields a bluesy ax and cinematic songwriting skills like he. But nothing really blew my hair back.

Then The Raconteurs' Consolers of the Lonely was released in March. And I have changed my mind. The man is a giant, standing astride North America and Europe, rocking the Atlantic and, by proxy, the Pacific.

Yes, he has been dubbed brilliant by way too many rock writers and pundits. And he recently was on that dreadful Rolling Stone cover with the aged Jagger and Richards. But I don't care. He is not attractive yet he gets magazine covers. That is awesome. Can I get a "what-what!" from my fellow Homelies?

You see, after numerous failed “Would you like to make the sex with me?” advances on the ladies, some of us men realize that it would all be so much easier if we were hot. So some of us (Group 1) sharpen our drunken wit, cultural banter, and facial hair. Maybe use a little more soap under the pits. Others (Group 2) apparently grow blue eyes, wear tight pants on stage, and obtain music skills from the gods. Group 1 calls Group 2 jerks and thieves, unless of course Group 2 can rock. And then all is forgiven, until they start collecting our, er, Group 1’s girlfriends. Jerks.

Anyway, I am not one to listen to albums, new ones especially, more than once a day. Afraid of numbing myself to the brilliance, I limit the love. But I just can't help myself with this one. Consolers of the Lonely is the first album I've been excited about and listened to endlessly since American Idiot. Green Day are also giants, but that's for another blog and when I am more sober.

How did I know that it was love at first listen? Well, I knew that it was good when I found myself rocking out in my office, with the door open. And I wasn't even remotely self conscious. But when I was rocking out, I wasn't doing the air-guitar thing. Now that I've seen other people air-guitar, I've realized how stupid it looks. So instead of that, when I drop my pants and jump on my desk, I play the air-Jews'-Harp. That doesn't look stupid at all.

To sum up my thoughts about The White Stripes briefly. Brilliant. In more depth? I saw them at the El Rey in '02 and realized that I finally found a white guy who can cop blues tunes and not be boring or annoying, but rather add something to the blues tradition. His version of Son House's Death Letter Blues is powerful and exciting to behold. The White Stripes are just two, he and Meg White. On the drums, Meg frames his art. She makes him muscular. By being tiny, their sound is tremendous.

So when he started this Raconteurs group, I was not entirely comfortable with this shift away from minimalism. It's a whole band. With a co-writer, co-singer (Brendan Benson) too. But because Jack is a giant, it works.

Here he is with fiddles, organs, keyboards, horns, cowbell (or is that a spoon in an empty glass on that one song?), and backing vocals. And a bass guitar. Their first album is a whisper but this new album is a bellow. They conjure up the entirety of Classic Rock Past and do it better.

On a side note, since when is Ron Jeremy coaching the Orlando Magic? It's nice to see him get some work, though. Wow, this economy is weird.

So with Consolers of the Lonely I won't bore you with a review of every song. I'll just list the highlights.

Consoler of the Lonely - I kept hearing the last minute on the radio, 3 times in 3 days, and was like, “Will someone PLEASE tell me who this is?! When did 98.7 start playing classic rock?” The whole song is good but that last minute is one of my favorite rock minutes ever.

Hold Up - Remember how exciting it was to hear U2 actually rock out for 20 seconds on "All Because of You" (or maybe you don't because the other 3 minutes were poo)? Well the Racs actually sustain that very rock-out for an entire song.

Top Yourself – Should have been called “Tup Yourself”. Spellcheck seems not to know “Tup” but Iago of Othello-fame certainly does. Great relationship-breakup lyrics.

Many Shades of Black – They do an Aerosmith-type ballad BETTER than Aerosmith.

Rich Kid Blues – A real highlight. Why? Because it goes BIG. REALLY BIG. And check out the second verse when Jack shreds his voice to the point that he sounds a lot like the young Bono.

Carolina Drama – Reviewers have referred to this as Dylan-esque. Well. If every well written song gets referred to as “Dylan-esque” I’m fine with that. But this one does have structural hints of his Desire album with the swampy mood of Time Out of Mind. Aside from specifics, the intensity of the story makes my heart beat out of time even after a dozen listens.

All of the other tracks of high quality as well, especially the second single Solute Your Solution which sounds like White Stripes with a bass guitar. Now I do realize that Benson is part of this team and he does help bring a different angle to the songwriting. But the sound is all about Jack.

I promise I'll ponder Benson's influence a little more. But only if they release a third album.

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