Category Archives: February

Love Interruption by Jack White

It seems like relocating Third Man records from Detroit to Nashville has done something to Jack White. The grittiness of Detroit informed every part of the White Stripes sound. This one, on the other hand, from his debut solo record Blunderbuss coming out in April (amazing that such a prolific artist doesn’t yet have a proper solo record), is all Nashville cool. In “Nashville Cats” The Lovin’ Spoonful they sum up the sound pretty well. “Nashville cats play clean as country water…play wild as mountain dew”. Gone are the buzzsaw solos and vocal-chord-shredding howls. Instead, Jack strums an acoustic guitar, accompanied only by a backup vocalist, a wurlitzer organ, and a bass clarinet (!). noticeably absent is a drummer – possibly done on purpose to separate the sound on the new record from his most famous band. The song is a slow burn soul number built around a tongue-twister chorus. It just simmers, never boiling over into one of Jack’s signature freak-outs. The threat of something wild happening never dissipates though, the tension built from being right on the edge keeps this song exciting throughout its short run time. The lyrics are great, each new line in the verse a dark murder-ballad or blues inspired gem, darkly comic and visceral.
Unfortunately, there are no Canadian dates yet, but I’m excited to see what sort of band Jack puts together to tour this and the rest of the record.

Tagged , , , , ,

Because The Night by Patti Smith

This is a wild, ragged love song by two of New Jersey’s finest. Co-written by Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen, and released by Smith in 1978, the song casts the bond between the two protagonists as both life-sustaining and all-consuming, both elixer and narcotic. The song captures the exhileration you experience tying your fate to another, and the conflicting sense of safetly and powerlessness this creates. It’s powerful, it’s bold, and it has one of the all-time greatest sing-along choruses.
I’m reading Just Kids by Patti Smith right now, which is just great. The stark images and inspired word choice that are hallmarks of her lyrics and poetry also show up in the book – so far it’s an amazing account of living in New York in the late 60s. The book is mostly about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, the controversial artist and photographer who was briefly Smith’s partner before he came out. Their friendship remained strong, she describes in the book, each providing support for the other during trying times. Their relationship maintained a sense of romance despite their attachment to others – it was much more than a conventional friendship.
I’m probably reading too much into this, but I think that this relationship with Mapplethorpe informs the verses to “Because the Night”. It makes for interesting suppositions, anyway. Here’s a couple versions of the song, by Smith and others.

Tagged , , , ,

Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis by Neko Case

Tom Waits introduced this song once by telling this story:

“I was in Minneapolis – it was 200 degrees below zero – I know – you think I’m bullshitting, no, I swear to God, I was wearing just a bra and a slip and a kind of dead squirrel around my neck – he was colder than I was. The police cars would go by and they’d wave… Merry Xmas, Merry Xmas, Merry Xmas – anyway – I got caught in the middle of a pimp war between 2 kids in Chinchilla coats, they couldn’t have been more than 13 years old- they’re throwing knives and forks and spoons out into the street – it was deep – so I grabbed a ladle – and Dinah Washington was singing “Our Day Will Come” and I knew that was it.”

Which I’ll just leave without comment, other than that it kind of blows me away.

As sung by Tom Waits, “Christmas Card” is a watershed song. Tom is at his most indulgent and his most a-melodic (at least until Rain Dogs). This song forces you to listen to what he’s saying, and to listen to how the tension in the timing, in his delivery, and in the song’s dissonance effect and are affected by the lyrics. It’s a song that separates the casual Tom Waits fan from the die-hard.

Neko Case brings an entirely new perspective to this song. Her voice is powerful even when she whispers – she’s got the sort of pure, commanding alto that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. She brings an urgency to the lyrics, something plaintive, that Tom’s rasp did not. Her choice of arrangement, with church organ, makes the protagonist seem less rabid, more innocent. I feel more sympathetic towards her and the tragedies that she’s faced – she seem less disingenuous than Tom – her apologies are more sincere.

However, it lacks that tension, that grimy element that exists in the original. The mood has changed. It’s a different song, for another occasion. Find it on New Coat of Paint: Songs of Tom Waits, from 2000.

She’s eligible for parole tomorrow, remember.

Tagged , , , ,