Dig Those Groovy Tunes!

the only sound that's left after the ambulances go

Today’s post has been brought to you by LJ Lawrence and his fantastic facial hair of DOOM! June 6, 2010

Yup, this is totally the background on my laptop right now. Because LJ's new mustache is just THAT awesome.

Having lately viewed some recent images and videos of The Dead Weather (you know, that band I was all psyched about around the time I started this blog and since have written oodles and oodles of posts on of varying degrees of relevance?  Yeah, they’re back with a new album already.  And, amazingly, I have yet to get my hands on it), I couldn’t help but notice the manly new growth of hair on bassist Little Jack “LJ” Lawrence’s once-boyish face.  And since LJ, up until now, has probably changed the least in appearance out of all the people who’ve been in bands with Jack White (including Jack White himself, who seems to change his hairstyle every time a new album comes out.  Lately he seems to be sporting a vaguely girlish Alvin-Lee-at-Woodstock kinda ‘do — that is, if Alvin Lee decided to go goth at Woodstock, highly unlikely considering goth did not exist as a fashion statement until around the time The Cure came out, unless you want to count proto-goths like Alice Cooper and Sally Field.  Now, where was I?  Oh, yeah, LJ), and since I was just waiting for an excuse to dedicate an entire post to the world’s most adorkable bassist (who also happens to have some of the most gorgeous hair I have ever seen and I must find out what kind of shampoo and/or conditioner he uses), I decided what they hey?  So tonight, I celebrate my love for Little Jack.  As well as the power a mere mustache has to make what used to be one of the most innocuous-looking musicians ever to collaborate with Jack White (yes, even Meg would look almost hostile next to the pre-whiskered LJ) look downright sinister.  Like some absinthe-drinking evil genius who may or may not also be a vampire and/or warlock…  

For comparison, here are two music videos featuring LJ.  The first is an old video from one of LJ’s previous bands (as far as bands go, LJ is quite possibly the only artist in either The Dead Weather or The Raconteurs who is more prolific than Mr. White), The Greenhornes, where the nerdy-awesome bassist is clean-shaven and joins his bandmates to spread joy and peace and retro-delic swirls of color.  In the latter video, the latest from The Dead Weather, brief glimpses can be seen of LJ (although the video is dominated by frontpersons Alison Mosshart and Jack White) with his newfound whiskers of terror!  And naturally, this video is much darker.  Is this perhaps because of LJ Lawrence’s sudden aversion to the ol’ razor?  Probably not.  But that’s not going to keep me from pretending to theorize that LJ’s facial hair or lack thereof determines the degree of darkness in the videos he appears in (a theory which I know full well can be very easily refuted by the videos for The Raconteurs’ “Broken Boy Soldier” — no mustache, but still a plenty creepy video, esp. since I’m pretty sure Floria Sigismondi, the director of the “Broken Boy Soldier” vid also direced “Die By the Drop” — and Blanche’s very death-centric “Someday” — which not only features Little Jack with no facial hair, but also features him playing the banjo — how ominous could that possibly be?  The answer:  very).  Because I love making up weird theories like that in my spare time…you should hear my latest one about The Eagles’ “Hotel California” being a result of the song’s writer being possessed by the spirit of Shirley Jackson…except I actually almost believe that one myself.  Seriously, go and read “A Visit” and tell me “Hotel California” isn’t some sort of spiritual successor…but anyway, back to the LJ and the mustache business…  

By the way, it seems as though LJ now has not only a mustache, but a full-fledged goatee…check it out…  

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Video of the Week: “Treat Me Like Your Mother” by The Dead Weather July 18, 2009

Part of me – the part that’s always strongly abhorred senseless violence – really wants me to hate the video for The Dead Weather’s latest single, “Treat Me Like Your Mother”.  Directed by Jonathan Glazer, the video premiered about a week or two ago on Cinemax and, for obvious reasons, probably won’t be showing up on VH1 any time soon.  By all logical reasoning, there’s very little in this video that should appeal to me.  The plot’s simple:  two people trek across a barren landscape toting machine guns, and for reasons which are never explained, open fire at each other.  They put an innumerable amount of bullets through each other, and yet neither one of them dies.  But I guess one of the few things that does appeal to me about this video – that is, that the duelers happen to be Jack White and Alison Mosshart – is what makes the video just look so dang cool.  And that’s probably because Jack White and Alison Mosshart are the type of people who can do just about anything – short of exhibiting certain bodily functions – and make it look cool.  Another thing about the video that appeals to me is its surrealism.  I mean, these two people shoot each other about a gazillion times, yet neither one of them drops dead.  I didn’t even realize just how surreal – or messed up – this video was until I watched it for a second time, and noticed that, at the end, you can actually see through the bullet holes shot through White’s body.  This video can’t be all that it seems; it’s got to be a metaphor for something.  For what, I’m not totally sure.  Either that, or it’s just proof that Jack White is in fact, as I’ve long suspected, not a mortal being, but the walking undead.  I’d say the same about Alison Mosshart, only it was already confirmed that she was a vampire in The Kills’ video for “Black Balloon” (no relation to the Goo Goo Dolls song of the same name.  Oh, and by the way, here’s a little disclaimer:  I make up conspiracy theories in my spare time just to amuse myself, and they’re not to be taken seriously.  Except for the one I made up about Warren Zevon and Hunter S. Thompson being long-lost twins.  That one I actually believe.  Well, almost).   Anyway, as much as I want to hate this video for not only its depiction of graphic violence, but the lack of realistic consequences resulting from said violence, I can’t help being fascinated by it.  I just would think twice before showing this video to any impressionable young children.  Jeez, listen to me; I’m starting to sound like those “video games make people violent” people that annoy me so.

 

The Dead Weather: So Much More than Jack White’s Other Other Band July 17, 2009

HorehoundEver since March, when word got out that Jack White had formed a new band called The Dead Weather, I’d been anxiously awaiting the release of their debut album, Horehound.  Around that time I had started regarding Mr. White as the savior of high-quality rock and roll in this era of overall musical mediocrity, so naturally my expectations were high from the start.  Now that I’ve finally gotten Horehound and have listened to it, I am amazed to say that the album has exceeded those already astronomical expectations.  I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive when I looked through the insert before putting on the CD (as I’ve mentioned before, the pre-listen glance through the insert is a new-CD ritual for me) and upon skimming the lyrics realized that pretty much all the songs (with the exception of “3 Birds”, which has no lyrics) have similar subject matter:  almost all the songs seem to be about someone in a mutually abusive, destructive, and/or sadomasochistic relationship.  I wondered if The Dead Weather’s music would be interesting enough to carry a common theme without sounding monotonous.  After listening to their album a couple of times, I can confidently say that they’ve succeeded.

There was a time when I referred to The Dead Weather as “Jack White’s new band.”  I have since seen the error of my ways, as this description doesn’t do the band justice.  Perhaps the biggest surprise I came across whilst listening to Horehound is that Jack White, much as I revere him and his seemingly boundless talent, is not the most impressive part of The Dead Weather.  Don’t get me wrong, his drumming is fantastic, and not just for a guy who’s mainly recognized as a guitarist.  It’s just that, on the few opportunities that White gets to provide lead vocals (with the exception of “Will There Be Enough Water?”), he comes off as…well…kind of annoying.  I’m not saying that his vocal itself is annoying; I’ve always been a fan of White’s voice and one album isn’t going to change that.  But “I Cut Like a Buffalo,” on which White provides lead vocals throughout, could have been a pretty good song if it didn’t feature the sound of simulated choking, which is at best unnecessary, and at worst downright disturbing.  Then there’s “Treat Me Like Your Mother” and “Rocking Horse,” on which lead vocals alternate between White and Mosshart.  In the former, the verses sung by Mosshart alone are great, and the part where she and White simultaneously spell “M-A-N-I-P-U-late” is pretty good, but the “Who’s got it figured out?” rap segments of the song, performed primarily by White, are less than extraordinary.  As for the latter, the only real problem I have with that one is the very fact that the lead vocals do alternate, and a bit too frequently (in the first couple of verses, the vocals are swapped every two or three lines).  I honestly think the song would sound much better if only one of the two members provided the lead vocals, or at least alternated every verse instead of every few lines.  But hey, that’s just me.

No, the member of the band who steals the show – quite possibly the only person who could ever upstage Jack White…well, short of Bob Dylan, Loretta Lynn, or Mick Jagger – is Alison Mosshart, hands down.  Her vocals – which sound like the love-child of Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison – suit the band’s dark and heavy blues-rock sound perfectly.  At times, the band even sounds like a modern, female-fronted equivalent of The Doors.  This is especially true for the songs “So Far from Your Weapon” and “No Hassle Night.”  In my humble opinion, the former is the best song on the album, with the slowly building music and threatening lyric (sample:  “There’s a bullet in my pocket burnin’ a hole. / You’re so far from your weapon and the place you were born.”) meshing perfectly with Mosshart’s low, seductive lead vocal, which is complemented perfectly in a call-and-response between her and all three of the other members.  Another high point on the album is the opening track, “60 Feet Tall,” in which Mosshart confidently wails to a lover who’s “cruel and shameless…cold and dangerous” that she’s up for the challenge:  “I can take the trouble, / I’m 60 feet tall!”  The album’s closing track, “Will There Be Enough Water?” also stands out.  It’s long and slow, not as heavy as the other songs on Horehound, and reminiscent of Bob Dylan (one could even say the lyric makes reference to an early Bob Dylan song, “When the Ship Comes In.”  And knowing what a huge influence Dylan has had on White, it’s probably a conscious reference).  The song features Jack White on the lead vocal, singing what Jack White, after all, sings best:  pure blues-rock.  After the song fades out, the sound of crickets can be heard for several seconds before the album finishes completely.  Quite a marvelous way to finish a great album.

Those of us who’ve waited as long for Horehound as I have were teased with a couple of singles and maybe a handful of live performances posted on YouTube while we waited.  Yet the two songs that were released as singles so far (“Hang You From the Heavens” and “Treat Me Like Your Mother”), though both fairly good, don’t even begin to demonstrate how great The Dead Weather really are.  If you haven’t gotten Horehound yet, and you’re into hard rock and/or blues, or are otherwise open-minded when it comes to music, I would highly recommend that you run – don’t walk – to your nearest music-selling establishment as soon as possible and get Horehound.

 

Fear and Loathing in Dead Weatherville -or- Looks Like Jack White’s Finally Lost His Marbles in the Best Possible Way -or- All Work and No Play Make Jack Forget About Corn July 15, 2009

While I’m still anxiously awaiting the copy of Horehound I pre-ordered a couple of months ago (the album was released in the US yesterday), I’ve gotten hooked on this short interview video of The Dead Weather.  And look what all work and no play have done to our dear Jack…soon he’ll be chopping through doors with an axe and maniacally yelling catch phrases from prime-time talk shows (my money’s on Conan.  They have a history, those two).  Yes, I think Jack has finally lost it…and I’m kind of loving it.  Either that, or he’s started smoking the ol’ ganja (nah…).  The eerie organ music (provided by The Dead Weather’s bespectacled bassist and resident Zen philosopher, Little Jack Lawrence), the yellow haze, and the impression the band and interviewer give off of being stoned (although more likely than not, they’re just drunk and/or in a goofy mood) all give this video the feel of a deleted scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  In this video, you get to witness Jack White saying an R-rated word (and I always had Alison pegged as the potty-mouth of the group), imitating a ferocious bear, getting a popular piano man confused with a character from a Bobbie Gentry song, and forgetting about corn.  You heard me.  Don’t ask questions, just watch and enjoy.

(Sigh)…maybe my Horehound will come tomorrow…

 

Jack White’s at it Again March 14, 2009

Recently (just over a month ago, in fact), my faith in modern rock music was restored by Jack White, the lead singer and guitarist of two fantastic

Modern rock god Jack White, having a weird hair day.
Modern rock god Jack White, having a weird hair day.

 bands, The Raconteurs and The White Stripes.  This all started when I decided to listen to The Raconteurs’ latest album, “Consolers of the Lonely”, so I could write a review for my reviewing and publishing class.  To make a long story short, I really, really liked the album.  So much, in fact, that in the weeks that followed I was compelled to delve (with the help of YouTube) into the back catalogues of both The Raconteurs and White’s other (and more famous) band, The White Stripes.  I’ve been hooked on both bands ever since.  So of course I had to wonder, what could possibly better than Jack White, this awesome musician, being in two awesome bands?  Two days ago, that question was answered.  Jack White is now in three awesome bands.

 

White’s latest project is The Dead Weather, a band that, like The Raconteurs, might be called a “supergroup” — all the members have musical careers existing outside of the band.  The line-up consists of Alison Mosshart from The Kills (who, like The White Stripes, are a male-female indie rock duo, but have a grittier, dirtier sound) on lead vocals, Jack Lawrence (a.k.a “Little Jack”, a.k.a. “LJ”) from The Greenhornes, Blanche, and The Raconteurs on bass, Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age (who’s also been an auxiliary member of The Raconteurs, providing some extra instrumentation onstage and on some of their album tracks) on guitar, and Jack White on drums and vocals.  Yes, that’s right:  Jack White, an artist renowned for his guitar-playing (#17 in “Rolling Stone” magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” list.  Which is pretty impressive, although I don’t know if I agree with the decision to rank White above George Harrison, but that might be due to my own personal bias), is playing the drums this time around.  Which is yet another reason for me to be excited about this band:  I’m curious to hear White taking on an instrument he doesn’t typically play (although I’ve read that he started playing the drums even before he learned how to play the guitar).  And don’t even get me started on how excited I was to hear that White’s fellow-Raconteur-named-Jack, Little Jack Lawrence, was going to be in this new band.  Lawrence is my other favorite

The Dead Weather:  (from left) Alison Mosshart, Jack White, Jack Lawrence, and Dean Fertita

The Dead Weather: (from left) Alison Mosshart, Jack White, Jack Lawrence, and Dean Fertita

member of The Raconteurs, mostly because he manages to make geekiness look just so darn cool.

 

Unfortunately, we have to wait until June for an album from these guys, but they have just released a single called “Hang You From the Heavens” which at the moment can only be purchased on i-tunes, along with a “B-side” (do people still call it that, now that most singles are released on media other than vinyl, therefore not having a second side, if any side at all?), a cover of Gary Numan’s “Are Friends Electric?”  But if you’re an i-pod-resistant neophobe like me, fear not.  Both of their songs can be heard on their website (http://thedeadweather.com/), which is where I went to listen.  The website also has a really fun black-and-white video that plays on a continuous loop and serves sort of as a “music video” for both songs (or just goes on silently when neither song is playing).

“Hang You From the Heavens” starts with a loud, pulsing drumbeat that demands the listener’s attention, soon joined by a guitar so loud, so low, so distorted that it makes The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” sound like a bubblegum song.  Mosshart’s voice comes in sounding defiant, agressive, uncompromising, not willing to take anyone’s crap.  I’ve listened to the song now a couple of times, and I’m still not sure whether it’s her voice by itself or if she and White are singing in a very close harmony, because if I didn’t know that Mosshart sang the lead vocals, I would have assumed it was White singing.  The vocals on this song sound almost exactly like White’s own singing voice, only maybe a little higher.   So either Mosshart’s voice can sound an awful lot like White’s at times, or their voices are blended together so well that it sounds like one voice.  Either way, it’s a good vocal.  The lyrics convey a frustrating combination of intense love and intense hate, with lines like “I wanna grab you by the hair,/ And hang you up from the heavens.”  The song is altogether loud and agressive, but at a slow and lazy tempo atypical of the average angry hard rock song.  In my opinion, it’s a very promising first single.  As for “Are Friends Electric?”, I can’t really say how faithful it is to the original Gary Numan song, since I’ve never heard the original, but it is a very cool-sounding song with a retro-futuristic vibe to it.