Boarding House Reach – Jack White

 

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This album is infuriatingly compelling; damn it.

Garage-Rock Revivalist and King of the Hipsters Jack White returns with Boarding House Reach, his third solo studio effort and it’s hard to talk about this record. It makes me feel like Schrodinger’s cat, somehow in love with it and utterly frustrated by it.

Of Hemingway’s many stylistic features, his most famous is the extensive use of parataxis, which – aside from being a very fun word to use in a sentence – is a logically tricky technique where, instead of using a conjunction that defines the relationship of two ideas, favors the logical placement side by side of the two words: instead of saying, but, use and.

And it seems Mr. White’s new songwriting style is paratactic, to greater and lesser success.

This album is a glorious mess; Zappa in its essence by way of AWB, Earth, Wind & Fire, and sometimes, White’s own series of malaprops that define the best of his work. There is a chaos and disorder that I love; and I’m not sure why.

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Track to track, there is no flow. None of the tracks have any sense of continuity. The downbeat synth gospel “Connected by Love” is followed gracelessly by the meandering “Why Walk a Dog?” and then there is a very distressingly intentional 5 minute jam on “Corporation”. And then there is “Abulia and Akrasia”. Each of these songs is concocted half-heartedly, and exist painfully in the negative space. The funky white boy jam of “Corporation” never quite coheres, with the vintage keys and synths clashing with the guitars, and abruptly changing tone with each vamp on the original musical idea.

And instead of building up, or flowing from one contour to the next, there is a splatter paint aesthetic to the pastiche and stylings. White steals liberally from the sounds of Kid A on “Hypermisophonia”, and then takes a hard left turn into 90’s hip-hop sounds on “Ice Station Zebra”. At no point do these songs feel like they should follow one another.

As we progress through each track – with an interesting drum beat here – a little throwaway vignette here featuring healthy steinbeck sounding big words like some frankenstein abjuration – a thick garage rock fuzz guitar riff, there is no propulsive lift that makes the album become more than itself. The plane is turning down different runways and tracks, increasingly kaleidoscopic; but only ever obscuring, never clarifying.

It feels like something Frank Zappa would have done; and, at times, I feel like I’m re-listening to We’re Only in it For the Money, or Uncle Meat, where the song fragments never really add-up, and it’s on purpose. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that White is secretly listening to The Mollusk on infinite repeat.

And I’m not sure that works. Those records rely heavily on the fact that Zappa and Ween don’t take themselves at all seriously. The humor is from the absurdism of the personalities of

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Zappa and the Mothers, as much as the music on the record, which never stabs the serious; never approaches that kind of intent that would convey some kind of point.

Jack White has never affected that kind of persona. He’s always struck me as rather self-serious, even when making a joke. His humor always has a very in-group vibe; the kind of joke told by the kid who is reading Camus to his horn-rimmed wearing, plaid laden, group of friends, all the way in the back corner, laughing at the absurdity of Sisyphus.

And that doesn’t quite gel with what Jack White excels at: tightly written rock music. I’m all for weird jazz, technical prowess, and musical cavalcades of chaos, but it doesn’t feel genuine on this record.

And and and and yet, I can’t stop listening to this record.

Despite the high signal to noise ratio of cognitive dissonance this record induces, White does a lot of things right: the production is damn near flawless, even when the songwriting is oblique and off kilter. His guitar tone still sounds like that sexy-fuzz that I’ve always known: like sugar dipped bacon, gritty, sweet, but still just salty enough for character.

Despite the song’s often going nowhere, with disjointed musical ideas never quite adding up, there are some particular killer cuts on the back half of the record “Over and Over” is pretty great. The instrumentation is often interesting, and the sound immersive.

By the end of it, even though I’m frustrated and  dreamlike, I still want to explore the record again; as if re-listening to it will somehow make the confusing thick production into tighter written songs; and the equation will make itself known.

The chaos isn’t controlled; Jack White isn’t Frank Zappa; and this record is a confused mess; and I kind of love it anyway.

Until I don’t think like Caravaggio

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If you like this record, check out: Uncle Meat, The Mollusk, We’re Only in it for the Money

To the Pointless: 2/28/18

Winter is dying, yo, and not just cause of Global warming.

The herald of the end times of sad times arrives on the doorstep and I am all for it. My seasonal affective disorder will not permit me to not get excited about the sun existing for longer and the dark existing for shorter. I can hear the sovereign desultory salutations of the first blossoms in the distance; I can hear that winged feather duster angel and all her glory as the seasons balance themselves out, and life becomes a tad more comprehensible for a time.

Or something.

I have problems with being able to express myself meaningfully and then not immediately backpedal or make light of it. I suppose it’s a sign of insecurity, but there has always been something that feels vital to the process. You know, sorta like how you have a nasty habit, and then you decide not to break it, cause it’s familiar.

But I do find a weird, perverse value in self-referential-deprecation of my own work, although it dilutes my point like roman innkeepers and falernian wine.

Falernian.

As stated this blog is pointless: its hardly a blog. I don’t have a reason to write, other than to do so. So if you’re reading this for any reason other than to look at the ramblings off the tip of a stranger’s tongue perpetually spinning, occasionally going for the pretty, you might be in for some unfun times. I do have things that are actually coherent. But there’s something enjoyable about meaningless nonsense too.

Except for Finnegans Wake, which is distinctly unnonsensical. That portmanteau works.

Maybe I could go all mezzanine like Nicholson Baker and introduce extensive footnotes at the end of my blogpost that end up diminishing the value of my insights, as perpetual lists of contrary evidence array themselves in neat little formations that frustrate and amaze.

Maybe  I could go full joyce and slip into dedalus labyrinths holy shit I just realized his name is dedalus and the labyrinth is his mind and all its weird references to art and life and everything oh my god I just had that realization now now now now and now i’m quoting Molly Bloom too unsubtly for my taste but hopefully at this point you do begin to realize that you need space in your writing. You need periods, man.

But I don’t know why I needs to be public. Maybe it’s  because i’m sick of bottling up my private little neuroses in some back corner, where it’s safe, and easy, and can’t be exposed to the light. Where those fingerprints of contrary evidence can’t touch its sullen exterior.

Someone’s talking about the Tao and doesn’t know it.

Maybe I could dip into some Zen Buddhism Koans for a change, instead of constantly referencing Taoism. Maybe I could talk about Sikh’s (pronounced Sick) or the Muslim folk, or my formally informal conversion to Hinduism (little heart eyes emoji).

But this nonsense is most assuredly nonsense, and I doubt it’s meaningful either. Unlike all of the above.

So, if you like that, we can be friends. Honestly, we can be friends probably cause you’re a pretty sweet person. Or maybe you’re a Nazi, that seems to be a common problem these days. That and the aggressive need to be right.

I need to be wrong more. Or at least I need to make the effort to let myself be wrong more. To be incomplete and unfinished.  A pastel painting where it’s half blank because the person who painted it has OCADD and is too distracted by their rituals to do anything about it.

Or I could try to be Montaigne, not quick, but definitely lovingly pointless in his desire to be insignificant.

I think its honest when artists desire to be forgotten. I think I’ve said that before. That said sad that before, and I think that’s actually rather pretty, in an off putting way.

But why do I feel you need to know this? Perhaps its to show off; I certainly seem questioning tonight. I feel like I’m trying to be David Markson and Kate at the of reality. Always revising some Wittgensteinian (I think a word) tractatus and the world is already the case, but you havent discovered the case yet, so it’s something like Godel’s incompleteness theorem.

And now my attempts are perspicacity are most certainly contrived, and that makes me sad.

But what is the internet other than a bunch of mindless or mindful rambling on topics that don’t really matter, for people who aren’t really there, to justify an opinion you don’t really Hold?
Perhaps that’s mean spirited.

Consistency seems to be a challenge for me. So let’s take bets on how long this goes. I’m not banking on it lasting more than a month, but i’ve been proven —

Stop.

and reverse

Light blinks

Turn

Is this wise. I don’t know. Is it healthy. An even greater, and more fraught question. Is it worth it.

Well, I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t.

The best things in life are worth doing poorly, or so I’m told. I wonder how many abstractions I’m missing in here. Probably a fair bit. this is, after all, a snapshot.

But I think a snapshot is worth more than the essay that it could have been. That’s not true.

And I don’t know what is.