1. Jack on Meg
“She was the antithesis of a modern drummer. So childlike and incredible and inspiring.”
“She is a strong female presence in rock and roll, and I was not intending to slight her either, only to explain how hard it was for us to communicate…”
2. Jack’s fedoras
3. Thoughts on “Lazaretto,” the song (in chronological order)
a. This is awful
b. This is crazy
c. Zack de la Rocha?
d. Never mind, this is boring
4. Thoughts on Lazaretto, the album
The A side of Lazaretto was pressed on vinyl such that the needle moves from the inside of the record (the grooves of one track are literally pressed over the paper) outward, toward a 78-speed hidden track. On the B side, a metal-etched image of an angel becomes visible when the record spins. While interviewing Jack White recently, Jimmy Fallon looked down at the LP and said, “It’s insane that you went to all this length just to make such a fun, cool thing,” unintentionally summarizing the single aspiration of Jack White’s post-White Stripes career: to make fun, cool things.
Third Man Records is Jack White’s monument to a time when records were both pressed and purchased with a great deal of individual care. Jack White remembers (or wishes he could remember) the magical commodity value music was able to acquire thanks to the massive productivity of the record industry and the physical capital it generated. Aside from his business ventures, Jack White also hearkened to the past of his imagination through his performative, egotistical country-rock shtick in every musical act of which he’s been a part. His narrative-based lyricism in almost all of the White Stripes material and most of his work in The Raconteurs was aimed at transporting the listener to darker and more bizarre scenes from a simpler, more unfamiliar, and irretrievable time. Lazaretto’s opener, “Three Women,” echoes the “feigned” and lightly satirized retro-masculine attitude with which White’s fans must have become familiar by now, but there’s ample evidence that intense masculinity appears in White’s own life and career in a less identifiable, profoundly complicated way.
The only crime Lazaretto commits that wasn’t already covered by his misogynistic solo debut, Blunderbuss (one highlight of which is Grammy™-nominated single “Freedom at 21,” featuring the lyrics: “Take me down to the police/ Charge me with assault…/ She don’t care what kind of wounds she’s inflicted on me/ She don’t care what color bruises that she’s leavin’ on me/ ‘Cuz she’s got freedom in the 21st century”), is being really boring. Here, White uses the same old condescending parable-recalling tone, now musing on the themes of freedom and entitlement. While it’s easy to mistake closer “Want and Able” as a sort of thoughtful double-take in the direction of Blunderbuss, the lyrics still sound victimized and judgmental; in the final seconds, he sort of croons: “Like I wanna hold you, and see you, and feel you in my dreams/ But that’s not possible, something simply will not let me.”
If the freedom Jack White wants is the freedom that existed before the immense availability of digital music — when records were commercial art objects, when most of a label’s technically talented musicians were subject to the instructions of overweening A&R men, and when idiosyncratic, independently creative, self-determining women were nowhere to be found in rock music because all those slots were filled by self-important men making busy and thoughtlessly cathartic shit — then I wouldn’t mind denying Jack White all of the freedom that I have in my power to grant by outright refusing to allow, from this point on, any more of his records or other creative works to occupy the space and time of my life. By taking solo efforts Blunderbuss and Lazaretto seriously, we are opening up a line of communication with an artist on his terms — terms on which it was “hard to communicate” with his former bandmate as an equal just because she wasn’t visibly thrilled with him.
Gotta give this 0.5 instead of 0 because of the sick ass-soloing on “High Ball Stepper,” though.