Will the Raconteurs ever record together again? It looks like the answer is no. Because Jack White forms and unforms bands the way some people cycle in and out of relationships. No sooner has one project off the ground, it’s on to the next one. Jack White is a promiscuous collaborator, and that’s what’s made his career so interesting. I haven’t checked out his latest solo record yet, but I’m excited about it. I’ve been told it’s an entirely new direction. In the meantime, we can look back on past triumphs, like the two Raconteurs albums. They’re as solid as they day they were pressed.
The Human League never covered any Del Shannon songs. If they had, it might have sounded something like this. This is also, technically, not a cover of Del Shannon’s famous hit; somehow no one has noticed that it has the same hook and Ladytron has been allowed to claim sole songwriting credit. Call it an homage, I guess. But it does make me want to hear Ladytron cover some early-60’s pop songs. I also want to hear Ladytron do a collaboration with Phil Oakey, because if anybody can replicate the sound of Dare for the new millennium it’s Ladytron. Or, you know, I just want Ladytron to make another album. Which they’ve been promising to do, but haven’t done. I would like it to be a 1960’s pop cover album featuring Phil Oakey, but I’ll take whatever they want to give me.
Remember 2008? Duffy was the singing sensation of the year. She got all kinds of glowing press accolades, including some embarrassing honorifics like “the new Dusty Springfield” or ” a more wholesome Winehouse.” Well, that was ten years ago and we haven’t heard a peep from Duffy since 2010. Apparently she didn’t take to fame the way some people do. She wanted to write songs and sing them, not to have every part of herself be turned into a commodity. It’s unfortunate that to succeed as an artist in this day and age, you have to sell a lot more than just your work; you have to be a brand from your eyelashes to your toenails, and not everybody wants to be looked at that intensely. Duffy, for her part, had the gumption to say ‘fuck this’ and just walk away, unlike Winehouse, who also just wanted to write songs and sing them. At least we got Rockferry, which is still marvelous ten years later, and who knows, maybe she’ll have something more to say when she’s lived more life.
David Byrne and Brian Eno really need to hang out more. Every time they collaborate something brilliant comes out. The last Eno and Byrne collaboration was Everything That Happens Will Happen Today in 2008. That record was innovative in a lot of ways, mainly in terms of distribution and promotion; independently produced! independently distributed! It was two old dogs learning new internet tricks, really taking advantage of this new digital age be-your-own-master music business. It was also notable in conception. Eno and Byrne set out to make an album that explored the human condition, as it exists in the digital age, and in doing so tampered down their own natural cynicism and emotional dryness. Cheerful, simple, emotionally direct songs that aren’t about making fun of people in flyover states.
Well, there’s one kind of blues I’ve never had to have. All the other kinds, yes, this one, no. Ahahahaha haha ha *weeping* “Always play to win, always seem to lose” is very true, though. Terry Reid was on it when he wrote that. Reid is one of those underrated talents who never quite got off the sidelines and into the spotlight, but some of his songs have had lives of their own. This one has been around the block. Marianne Faithfull recorded it in 1971, for an album that wouldn’t be released until the mid-80’s. Faithfull was dead on her feet in 1971, and she sounded it, but her song choice couldn’t be more apropos. She lived the blues. Every shade of the blues. However much I love her interpretation of things, in this case, I think it’s a little wobbly. There’s really only one definitive take of this song, and no, it’s not the original. The Raconteurs took it and blew it up. That’s likely where you’ve heard it, and you probably didn’t know it’s not a Jack White original. White is a great songwriter, of course, but he’s a great interpreter too, and when he does a cover, it’s always both unexpected and totally perfect. This duet with Brendan Benson is that, and one of the Raconteurs’ highlights.
Does it always look so gray, before the fall?
It’s been a record year for a lot of things, none of them good. Some of us are making peace with saying goodbye to the world as we know it. We may be witnessing the fall of an empire, not from a safe distance – because there is no such thing – but in the front and center of the world’s arena. And yet, as people are wont to do, we go about our lives amidst catastrophes and insist that our lives are meaningful and our feelings are the most important thing at stake at any given time. It is a wonder, maybe a miracle of some sort, that people in a dying world still believe that their love is not like any other love, or even that they still take the time to love at all. (Don’t get me started on people who still think that passing on their genetic material is somehow a good idea.) The world may still end with a bang, which might just be the best we can hope for, but for most of us, it’s going to end with a mournful song. We may be neck deep in record rainfall but we still want to be told that our feelings amount to a hill of beans in this world. And that’s why we have art, ladies and gentlemen.
Lucinda Williams again, this time in a very different mood. After decades of defining herself as a master of sad songs, she finally had a reason to write something happy. Part of Williams’ persona has always been playing the part of the unlucky-in-love woman who always falls for bad men; she has a long roster of friends and lovers who lived hard lives and died young. In 2008, when Little Honey was being recorded, she had finally found someone who was a keeper. In 2009 she married her record producer live on stage during a show. Her music has been noticeably less bleak ever since. After all that, you really want to root for her – she’s someone who’s paid her dues and earned her success through years of hard work and obscurity. It’s heartwarming to hear her sing something so full of real joy.