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Friday, September 15, 2006

Steady as She Goes

Merritt briefly mentioned Meg White from the White Stripes in her preview of the Raconteurs show:

With the White Stripes, Jack carries the duo, while Meg provides a writhing sexiness. But I ask--do her tribal gyrations always translate into good musicianship? Thought not.

I might be off here, but her statement feels very overdue. Even as a White Stripes fan, I totally agree. The frustrating thing has been whenever someone criticizes Meg White's drumming, a number of people will shoot back that her drumming is just fine. Not that I'm an expert drummer, but I often feel like Meg is not carrying enough of the load and it's unfair to Jack.

Not only is there a hole in the band's sound with only guitar, drums and vocals, but the strict simplicity of Meg's drumming leaves too much space. She rarely plays beyond a basic stomp and sounds either incredibly timid or too arrogant to play anything more. She gives Jack too much basic stuff to play on top of, but he does a pretty good job on his end. Yet the reciprocation feels very uneven and unbalanced.

All this said, songs like "Fell in Love With a Girl," "Seven Nation Army" and "Hotel Yorba" are perfect with her style of drumming. But a number of their other songs feel too constrained because of her approach. If she were to play a fill, that would be too much. Well, for crying out loud, is it too much to ask to play something that covers just a little more space than just the basic foundation?

Something I don't understand that a lot of people like is the sexual tension between Jack and Meg. Yes, they used to be married and playing together as a duo still draws out some tension. Along the lines of watching Fleetwood Mac perform so the interaction between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham can be seen, the White Stripes seem in the same league. I for one am not attracted to that as I care first and foremost about the music. "Go Your Own Way" may have been written as a kiss-off to Nicks and "Fell in Love With a Girl" may have been written about Meg, but why do I like them? They have catchy melodies, great singing and good beats -- no sexual interference needed.

I've heard a few other guitar/drum duos (like the Evens, the Like Young and Two Gallants) and I have no problem with the drumming. The Evens' Amy Farina may hit very lightly, but she doesn't pitter-patter around a style that sounds like she picked up the drums two days before the show. Even in a limited zone of guitar, drums and vocals, these bands have a lot of colors in their melodies. With the White Stripes, they have a lot of their own colors, but still, there's only so much that Meg can do.

I haven't really heard much of the Raconteurs' material, but it's very safe to say that I don't have the same misgivings with them as I do with the White Stripes. But the White Stripes really show off Jack White's wildman side. I really dig watching his guitar playing, singing and his general body language with the Stripes. Looking over at Meg, I see someone very confined who doesn't want to go anywhere else. Yeah, I could maybe see some sexual tension, but if my ears aren't hearing something appealing, I wonder what's the deal.

1 comment:

fuzzbuzz said...

I'm not sure why people always give girls a pass when they should judge them as much on their ability as they would a guy. It's important for ones growth as an artist.