Well, you burnt my house down then got mad at my reaction
Andy Reilly turns off the amps and turns up the volume
There’s always been a lot to Jack White. He’s an entertainer in the most traditional sense, and it’s never been just about the music. There’s always been a sense of the PT Barnum surrounding Jack, especially with The White Stripes, and people that follow his music will often cite the imagery and narrative of his work as much as the music when they speak of their admiration for the artist.
There’s also been a lot to the music of Jack White. From blistering blues selections to shuffling and earnest country songs, it’s likely that some people adore some of his output while having no time for the other music he creates. That’s fair enough, there’s no reason to love everything an artist releases just because it comes with their name.
So the Acoustic Collection spans an 18 year period between 1998 and 2016. Coming in at close to two decades worth of output, you could fit in the average lifespan of an artist in there a few times, showing the staying power that White has delivered in his career. These collections can often be chaotic and messy, especially for acts that jump between genres or are happy to evolve their sound, but there is a unified feel and theme to the record. Given that it is a collection of acoustic recordings, this shouldn’t be a surprise and it gives people that appreciate the softer and more delicate or intricate moments from the Jack White catalogue the chance to indulge in a collection tailored to their tastes.
In the era of playlists and digital collections, this maybe isn’t as essential as it would have been decades ago. However, there is the usual collection of mixes, rare tracks and long-lost tracks to persuade the die-hards to shell out again for material they already know and love. (This is assuming people still buy music, they surely must, but with streaming services and the internet being a general lawless wasteland, who knows? We all pay some way though, you can guarantee that.)
Of course, it’s the diehards that will be first in the queue for this collection. It may be a collection that appeals to a casual listener but in reality, this is an album that is preaching to the converted…while maybe nudging a few more people in the direction of Jack’s solo material.
That’s not where the real joy lies though. Unless you’re a maniac whose record collection hasn’t been updated in well over a decade, the early songs on the release are fresh and invigorating, reigniting the excitement surrounding much of The White Stripes work. The bluster and volume may have caught the attention at times, the pulverising and insistent nature of Seven Nature Army tricking the mind into believing that this is what the White Stripes mainly had in their locker, but there was always more to it than that.
The first 6 songs on the collection, including classics like Hotel Yorba, We’re Going To Be Friends and You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket remind you of the other side of Jack White and The White Stripes. Sure, he’s been known to batter a Von Bondie and is responsible for The Black Keys looking both ways before they cross the road when they’re back home, but Jack’s always been about the yin and the yang in one container. You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket remains as excellent today as it sounded on first listen.
If there is one immediate benefit to this collection, it’s that I’ve pencilled in a few Sunday listens of White Blood Cells, so that’s a positive right away.
With respect to The White Stripes reminder, there was also an added bonus of driving home how good a song Effect and Cause is. Whether I overlooked this at the time or this is reminding me of something that I previously liked and then forget doesn’t really matter, but it’s a fantastic addition. It’s exactly the sort of song that Rod Stewart would have delivered with a swagger, a wink and a seductive smile in his early to mid 70s pomp.
From this point on, the quality starts to get patchier. When the songs are good, they’re great. Given that it was one of the teaser tracks for the collection, you’ve probably heard this version of Carolina Drama already. That’s fine; it’s worth hearing a few times.
Love Interruption is also an excellent song and anything which gives you the chance to listen to Ruby Amanfu will be far from the low point of your day. Throw in the blink and you miss it creation for Coca-Cola that is Love Is The Truth, and there are plenty of singalong, clap-along moments that will keep you popping back to the collection on a regular basis.
Then again, the whole business of writing a song for Coke is another issue that you can wrestle with by yourselves.
By the end, having 26 songs will work against you if you intend to listen to the collection in one piece. (Again though, does this happen – is it far more likely that the songs will be popping up on shuffle or splintered into various playlists to be listened to later?)
The familiarity of songs but distance in time means the opening half of the record comes across as the far stronger side. To make the most of the music, give yourself a break in the middle and enjoy the song-writing quality on the second quality.
It’s a reasonable collection and with Third Man Records pushing vinyl as hard as they can, it’s going to be a release that is lapped up by so many buyers these days. It’ll bring in some easy money to the label but more importantly, it’ll ensure you reconnect with Jack White and his music. That’s never a bad thing, so in that regard, it’s job done with the collection.
The fact that White is hitting the TV studios to perform in support of the release is positive news, let’s hope it sparks him back into life on the road again.
Catch up with our page on The Raconteurs by clicking here
We talk about Elephant, by The White Strips, right here
We also made it to the Third Man Record store in Nashville in the summer of 2016, and you can read about our trip here.