Tuesday, May 11, 2010

why i've lost respect for jack white

one of the highlights of my teenage life was a couple of consecutive night concerts at the masonic temple theatre in detroit. a girl i knew in school, who i now think had a crush on me at the time, invited me to go the upcoming whitestripes show that was a local detroit release party for "elephant." with a sunken spirit i told her i couldn't go because i couldn't afford it (tickets were $35/$45 with fees). i was working 20 hours a week to help pay for what i thought was college but would really be a $30 a week cinnamon breadsticks habit. needless to say i didn't want to spend the money. then she said the magic words that are always to good to be true...

"that's ok, i can get you in for free"

this was my reaction

she replied with "yeah, my family works for the theatre and all you have to do is usher people to their seats [because it's a nice theatre] for 30 minutes and then you are free to roam the theatre and watch the concert." without hesitation i said i would be there.

i had followed the white stripes as a teenager because all of my friends learned to sing and play the guitar at the same time by playing "apple blossom." we all learned "dead leaves and the dirty ground" off "white blood cells" and then elephant hit, and the white stripes blew up and so did my affection for them.

anyway, i went to the theater with her entire family (who spoke some language other than english that i still have no idea what it was), and in my white shirt and tie sat people down and then got to watch jack white shred for the night. the theatre offered me a "on-call" position to just show up for any event to usher for. so i came back the next night with my friend ashley, and saw them again... in a white shirt and tie.

i vividly remember everything from those two nights. i remember jack white jokingly refer to detroit as "toledo" to get the crowd buzzing, i remember where i parked, i remember the shirt i was wearing, and i remember worrying that someone would ask for my ticket. but more than anything i remember the range of jack white's playing. at this point in my life mr. white was an eccentric song writer and riff creator but no virtuoso, due to the straightforward, simple progressions on his albums. these nights made me realize, while he focused his talents on his unforgettable melodies that stretch all over the world, he could really step forward as one of the strongest guitarists of all time.

that was the plateau of my respect for jack white, until "it might get loud" made me fall off that plateau.

i'll spare you the details but "it might get loud" is a documentary in which three deified rock guiarists (jack white, jimmy page, and the edge) all discuss their roots, opinions, and influences while meeting together in a warehouse in california. (you will probably need to see the movie to know everything i want to discuss)

the edge opens the movie showing off all the equipment he uses to create the sound he hears in his head. he has a roadie specifically dedicated to designing, caring for, and setting up his huge pedal board. the edge goes on to talk about how he spends hours in his studio perfecting the sound for his songs. just listen to the subtle but stinging nature of "with or without you." that song is defined by the guitar. the bass does nothing, the drums never change but that guitar makes that song blossom.

then jack white comes out to talk about how music has always fought against technology. that technology is dragging down the soul of music and pulling it through the mud destroying the humanistic expression inherent in organized sound. he is portrayed as a sort of antagonist to the edge's style, which made complete sense with jack's style of playing: raw, shrill and powerful. but then things changed.

white went on to talk about how his favorite song was the elegant blues song grinnin' in your face by son house in which there is only clapping and singing. white proclaims that this song is what he has been trying to do his whole career; just try to express himself through simplistic expression.

here in lies my problem... jack white does not accomplish his musical expression by simply clapping and singing; john anthony gillis is a hypocrite

let me explain. in probably the most unintentional and subtly ironic part of the movie, an executive on the film lot gets in the way of jack's car because he was talking on the phone. white looks back at the well dressed business man and says "he probably just got done saying something like 'totally organic.'"

yum, i can actually taste that symbolism. it tastes like superman ice cream.

jack white wants his expression to be something akin to 'totally organic' in the likes of son house, yet, in his music he accomplishes the equivalent of the dressed to the 9's businessman SAYING 'totally organic' which, obviously, is anything but.

jack white uses a heavy amount distortion (a technological way to change the timbre of the guitar without mechanical changes to the guitar itself) on a lot of the songs he puts out and on his albums he is credited as playing the SYNTHESIZER! as in synthesized music. you know, the instrument that is solely in existence because of technology? i could not fathom how the jack white that i saw as a teenager had become that which i despise the most... the "do as i say and not as i do" type. i would have been fine if jack white had just played the barmy old codger type that yells at the kids telling them why their new music is just noise while solemnly reminiscing about the good ol' days of blues and rock. that's how i see jack white, that's why i like jack white. i'll end with a horrible comparison: jack white took the blues and rock synergy, which we will compare to the old half-animated lord of the rings and made it into THE lord of the rings. both are good, but for completely different reasons. jack white just fails to acknowledge those differences and wants to see himself as kin with the old school.

i will always love the whitestripes and will always pay for their albums and their concerts without hesitation but i cannot look upon jack white with such respect anymore...

am i being to nit-picky? am i alone in these thoughts?


coming up next: lady gaga!


  1. I just want you to get to Lady Gaga.

    But yeah. Jack White's just too hipster for his own good.

  2. I don't listen to the whitestripes. the only song i know of theirs is the infamous "Seven Nation Army"

    but, I agree with what you're saying, Jack White does seem to be contradicting himself.

    Perhaps Jack White had been taking the example of "grinnin in your face" as inspiration. As in the ideal and spirit of it, and how it affects you when you hear it.(actually i don't know this song either... but) the idea of the simplicity of the music, not literal means of expression. Of course as a musician he will use a different means of expressing himself, otherwise it would be nothing new, and just a rip off of previous music.

    and perhaps he was just being inarticulate by saying technology was dragging down the soul of music, and is constantly fighting it.
    First of all, what does he even mean by "technology"? that is a VERY broad term. microphones, recording, synths, ELECTRIC guitar, EVERY instrument ever made, that is ALL technology. So i assume that he wasn't making it clear what HIS definition of "technology" (the kind that apparently is corrupting music) is.
    I imagine that he was exaggerating and generalizing the term, speaking without really thinking. I'm assuming when he refers to technology, he refers to techno or rap or whatever else is the "opposite" of his music. whatever it is that is popular right now, like Ke$ha or Kanye or Daft Punk.

    and i look forward to your thoughts on GAGA. she is quite the enigma.

  3. i think pica's on the right track. i don't think he meant that the edge's style of playing was dragging down music, but that he was referring to different technology.

    i read an interview where they asked jack about his thoughts on mp3's and pirating music and he said that regardless of how many people pirate music, there will always be the people that enjoy the whole experience of a vinyl, opening it for the first time, the smell that goes with it, the difference in sound, ect. for some reason, i just don't picture him walking around with an ipod.

    and yes, he's really different from son house, in so many ways. but at the same time, if you listen to some of his songs (not counting some of the raconteurs or dead weather ones) you can hear that those early blues singers really inspire him. granted, his albums aren't exactly delta blues, but he's not an idiot. jack knows what sells and what he needs to change in the music in order to move albums. because in the end, that's really what it's all about. say what you will, but everyone does what they do out of self-interest and a lot of times that means money. i mean, look at john mayer. you've heard his trio and what he can actually do with a guitar, but that sells less than what he normally puts out when he caters to young women. i'm sure when he's on his own, at his house, both him and jack play those styles that they draw from and that inspire them.

    i think in his heart of hearts, jack wants to be "totally organic", and would put out pure delta blues i he could, but he can't do that and still provide for himself. i feel like if he had been born in 1915, he would have been like muddy waters, robert johnson and son, but since he wasn't, all he can do i wish and dream about it. maybe i'm just clinging to what i want him to be, what i've always seen him as, but i feel like he's a blues man at heart, just born at the wrong time.

    i didn't edit this and i'm not going to cause i'm sleepy...and apparently an old man, so there's probably errors somewhere. deal with it. and i don't know how to change my name to just jared, or jared porter, or jared.r.porter. i hate blogs! i'm ranting about that next time i comment. gd it...

  4. after taking over 2 months to read over your comments (read as: didn't bother to look at my blog again until i had NOTHING to do at work) i have a response!

    i think pica encapsulated how jack was acting when she said that he was "speaking before thinking." i am guilty of that at least once a week (if not daily) and if someone threw a microphone in front of me they could find hypocrisies left and right.

    i think the reason i lost some respect for mr. white is his disregard for progression and seeing it as some type of evil. sure, jack white enjoys his vinyl, the inserts that come with it and the ever-present needle hum but it wasn't the original way of listening to music. you don't see people talking about how they miss wax cylinders and they can't move past that. i understand that love for nostalgia but to fight against the natural progression of technology, especially in music, will slow the art form. imagine if Bill Haley & the Comets were never allowed to play with electric instruments, or jimmy page learned nothing but skiffle... music wouldn't be the same, maybe no jack white. there is no musical nirvana (pardon the pun). no perfect state of music. music progresses, and that progression should be understood and accepted by all those involved.

  5. Things can be accepted and disliked. I accept free jazz as a legitimate form of jazz, but I dislike it. A lot. We're all free to hate whatever we want, Jack just hates things to make him seem like he's from a different time in music. I think it's mostly to play into who he's supposed to be, but also part of it's probably genuine. You once said you'd like to hang out with Jack White to see what he's really like when there aren't people around doing interviews or with video cameras. I think that's the only way you would ever get close to knowing how he really feels about things.

  6. He is young- explains his comment about the suit with a cell phone. It explains him not knowing that his struggle is more about remaining genuine than it is about fighting technology. He's still young, but hey, he won't be young much longer.