Thursday, 11 October 2012
D CDs #497: Impenetrable Defences
Look. Guys. I tried, OK? I really did. Even though I listened to this back in 2001 and thought it was mediocre and unpleasant by turns, I've been giving it another go. By which I mean I've given it not just a second, but a third spin, and thus heard the same song maybe two dozen times.
I don't know why I can't get next to this record. Maybe I just don't like reductio ad absurdum simplicity. Or boring drumming. Or a lack of bass. Or a man singing like Bobcat Goldthwaite stubbed his toe. Who knows how these things happen? We're here now, and we just have to deal with it.
Whatever else is going on, though, I can't help but find most of this album pretty derivative. The admittedly tasty riff from "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground"? Green Day got there before them with "Brain Stew", and I doubt it originated from them, either. "The Union Forever" is basically the Doors, "Aluminum" Led Zepplin rendered shapeless and unlovable. Even the storming "Fell in Love With a Girl" - far and away the album's best track, and perhaps not coincidentally the only one to rattle along at sufficient pace to paper over the band's weaknesses - has that "NAH na na na NAAH NAH!" thing everyone from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones to the Presidents of the United States of America have made use of in the past. Pro-tip, kids, if your song sounds like you're cribbing from the guys that wrote "Peaches" you have failed at music.
Maybe this is partly that old problem; a ridiculously highly-regarded album that you can't begin to understand people's love for. It's certainly not without it's charms. "Hotel Yorba" is sweet enough, "We're Going To Be Friends" likewise. Both of them stand out precisely because of what they're not, though, namely Jack White howling over a filthy guitar. With him so often stuck in that mode, then aside from speeding things up ("Fell In Love...") or sticking some organ into the mix (I dissed "The Union..." for being Doors-esque, but it's still one of the best tracks on offer here), there's nowhere for him to go but minor permutations on a theme I wasn't interested in on arrival, let alone after ten or so reshuffles.
In the end, though, I'm left with a style I care little for, and the ghosts of too many other songs that might have been disguised with more complicated arrangements, but amongst such skeletal music just stick out amongst the ribs.