I once wrote that I felt like Marty McFly's mother the first time I saw Jack White perform on the First Ave. stage. But, that's not really accurate. She didn't dig the strange sounds coming from her son's guitar ("that's very...interesting..music, Marty"). I was shaking with excitement and awe...he was like an alien, a being put on this earth to conjure strange and wonderful noises from his vox and his axe.
It wasn't just him that shook me. It could've easily become The Jack White Show, but to avoid such an ego trip he wisely has the sexy woman-child-like-wonderific Meg White as his anchor. There is the palpable sexual tension and fascinating show-relationship between him and his ex-wife, great friend and namesake, his more than competent musical partner that shares that energy and reads his mind and plays with him like NOTHING I have ever seen before.
This tangible voodoo-mind-reading-sexually explosive shit is evident on their *brilliant* new album, "Icky Thump" more than it's ever been before (I'm hoping they're gonna be even more en fuego when Fitzy and I get to see 'em in Austin in September..) It's on"Rag and Bone" most of all... especially when they sing, demanding together, "C'mon and give it to us!!" which continues to *slay* me each time I hear it. That and Jack's entire spoken word bits, calling out to "the people" to give them their Christmas trees and toilet seats that are so rousing, old-fashioned, campy and wonderful it just makes ya smile. When he slyly scolds with, "Oh, Meg, don't be rude!" Mmmm hmmm...you just wanna see him give her a lil' smack on her sexy bum. Yow!
This...Thing between them is most intense when you see them in person, on stage together. The way they look at each other, ranging from a sly, knowing glance to a super-charged glare is enough to set that fucking stage on fire. But, it's Jack's playing and singing that gets that fire started. And I marveled at how a man such as Jack White—not really all that pretty, and certainly not a preening Plant-like figure, was able to command such a sexual charge on stage. (he remarkably achieves virtually the same effect on record as well). Maybe it’s the tight pants and shirt that show off his muscular legs, arms and hands (very unlike the skinny-powerhouse-guitarists we’re used to. see: Keef, Jimmy, Pete, et. al.) You watch him walk on the stage, ghostly pale, eccentric, almost Tiny Tim-like mannerisms (pursed lips, rolling his eyes) and all of a sudden, at once, he's The Snake Charmer, he's a Voodoo Chile and he’s *taming* his wild, possessed guitar--harnessing the energy that’s sparking off of it. He can also do preacher man, shaman, vaudevillian, or the traveling junk man he *becomes* on "Rag and Bone" as convincingly as any great stage (radio?) actor, if you ask me.
Fitzy and I have had a bit of Jimi Hendrix thing going on, lately...the doc we just watched on the '67 Summer of Love and the 40 year anniversary of Monterey Pop Festival have loomed large. All about that dark magic and spell Hendrix put on U.S. crowds when he finally broke through. We recently had Jim over and he said what I was too scared to say when we put "Icky Thump" on...he said "this is how it felt with Hendrix." I knew exactly what he meant. Something so exciting and *dangerous* -- totally ahead of its time, while at the same time, totally looking backwards: to the rawness and the raunchiness of the blues. I felt validated with my audacious comparisons.
Still original, then? Yes.Dig my fave review thought/quote from the New York Times review, by Ben Ratliff: "The White Stripes aren’t preservationists; they’re magical utilitarians. Authenticity, in and of itself, seems to bore them. They’re on a far more selfish mission, smelting down favorite bits of English-language culture for their own ends." Jack White is his own king of his own rock universe, he's doing things no one has ever really dreamed of, I'd argue..but of course there's some Jimi in there and yeah, they do kinda rip off Zep (fine with me, by the way). There are moments, riffs and vocal phrases that sound exactly like a stripped-down moment from "Houses of the Holy" or "Physical Graffiti" and the Real Blues and then they fucking RIP IT UP. Jack White tears into riffs with his ferocious playing--he strangles the neck of his axe, making it talk, making it wail, making it moan. And then, to prove audacious claim that Chris Riemenschneider's and others have made...Jack White does the job of *both* Page and Plant and wails with his voice. and it makes me quiver. When you put this new record on...handbanging is a must...thrashing yer body about the room, a good idea...and some sort of sexual stimuli a good idea, too. The Led Zep heads of the world--unite!
This new adventure feels more personal in some ways, too. Sparked by his loverly, British model wife, Karen Elson serves as his muse on this sucker. I really support their marriage. Not just cuz she's ghost-white and red-headed, but because she must be making Jack very happy (they *do* have their second kiddie on the way.) There's all sorts of refs to "redheaded senoritas" throughout, it's almost haunting. But Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen have long known the power of that *red* imagery thing in songs...
She must be a mighty fucking cool wife to put up with that pesky voodoo shit between her husband and his ex-wife drummer. Also, as I said, the bond between Jack and Meg seems more intense since Jack got hitched to his Redheaded Woman... I'm thinking maybe Meg joins in...y'know?...they are *so* obsessed with the concept of "3"...hell, have you seen the back of Jack's new button-studded jacket? it's: III. Dig this lyric off of "300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues" (yes, an incredibly Dylan-humor-influenced flourish of a rockin'blues song): "Well, there's three people in the mirror and I'm wondering which one I should choose." The number "3" is all over "Icky Thump" and even in interviews...I'm just sayin'...)