I love his stuff, but I fear it won’t last.
Despite what the KLF say about it, the tune is the thing. It’s the musical gold that withstands the refining flames of fad, the fickle whims of aural fashion. When the next hip-hopped asteroid hits, great songs will be the only thing makes it through the apocalypse. It’s the only snatch of DNA nimble enough to adapt, to evolve when the pop world as we know it blows up once again. The song, it’s eternal. The instrumentation, the production, the format — but dust wrapped around the soul.
So the tunes? Jack’s not so big on them. Sure, he’s had his songwritery moments (“We’re Gonna Be Friends” comes to mind. “You’re Pretty Good Looking, For a Girl” — now that’s a fantastic line.) But what he does best is to blast out two minute garage-rock jams.
When he does that, he always sounds great, fantastic. The hooks and the cues are all there. You know the parts, the guitar bits, the keys, the squeals — even Meg’s drums were hooky. But we’ll have to wait and see what our grandkids remember of this guy. Wait and see what floats up through all of his nonsense. To the man’s credit, he cranks out enough music that something is bound to live on. Something will survive awhile longer. (For the record, my money’s on Van Lear Rose.)
But the jams, oh they’re tasty. The bursts of ear-slice guitar. The swagger of Jerry Lee, the mystery of Elvis. Jack’s the keeper of the flame, the holy templar who guards the secret of the sound. He’s the pope, the high priest, the prophet of the rockers, installed with a pointy hat and a scepter upon a backwoods throne somewhere outside of Nashville, where he rules from the court of Third Man Records, receiving pilgrims great and small.
About a year ago, I fooled around with covering Sixteen Saltines off of his latest, Blunderbuss. My goal was to see if I could record some big guitars to match his track. I liked where it was going and decided to do the rest of the parts, saving vocals for last. That was a mistake. The key of Jack of makes me sound like a screechy cat, so I trashed most of what I had and called it quits for a bit.
When I came back to it later, I realized that I didn’t care about raging guitars, so I picked out an acoustic & keyboard thing to re-tool the whole vibe. But some habits being hard to break, the guitars started creeping back track by track. I shall make no apologies for that; I like how it all worked out.