Monday, September 24, 2007

Wrapping Up Summer Sounds: Part II

Continuing my wrap-up of summer music purchases:

Icky Thump, The White Stripes. I was really looking forward to this album. 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan was my favorite of theirs, and Jack White’s 2006 Summer Project, the Raconteurs, was also an enjoyable diversion. But try as I might, I’m having trouble getting into this one, and I think I’ve put my finger on the reason why. Too many of these songs exist less as songs than they do as vehicles for Jack to show off his guitar virtuosity. And it’s not just that, because I enjoy a great guitar solo just as much as the next guy. But with these solos, it’s almost as if Jack sat in the studio all by himself, recorded them before even sitting down to write the songs, and then just dropped ‘em in where he thought they fit best. Unfortunately, in most instances they don’t fit at all – aural non sequitirs, when looked at within the context of the song. Take a song like “300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues” – nice, effective little blues number, picking up steam, nice hook, and then out of nowhere – LOOK, KIDS! I’M CHANNELING THURSTON MOORE, LOU REED AND JIMMY PAGE! TOP THAT SUCKERS! Just doesn’t work for me. And “Conquest” – can’t get it out of my head, but man, what an annoying song. It’s like one of those gnats that circles your head for an entire 5-mile run.

But I’m still trying, and there is definitely some good stuff here. It’s part of my running mix on my MP3 player, so I’m not giving up. Let’s just say at this point that I doubt it will threaten their last album for the coveted title of “Jeff’s favorite White Stripes album,” which I’m sure will be a major disappointment to Jack and Meg. Highlights: the title track, “A Martyr For My Love For You,” “Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn,” “Effect and Cause.”

Planet Earth, Prince. The purple one has been on a bit of a roll lately, but this is a slight step backward. Importantly, he has jettisoned the funk of 3121 for a pop sound that sounds straight out of 1985. Even Wendy and Lisa are back, though in the aural mix it’s difficult to tell exactly where and what they’ve contributed. Don’t get me wrong; this is a good album, but I just wish it were better. The ballads don’t work in most instances, and on too many of the songs, there’s just too much instrumentation. But “Guitar” is fantastic, as is “Chelsea Rodgers,” and the title track - even if Prince’s world view is a bit inscrutable.

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