Noise 101: CD Reviews for March 18 Reflector
by Sean-Paul Boynton
It’s very easy to complain about how bands never come to Canada. When an artist announces a “North American tour,” it’s usually a full tour of the United States with stops in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver (if they’re lucky). For the most part, the rest of our great country gets overlooked, to the chagrin and bitter resentment of its inhabitants.
So when the White Stripes announced they would be setting out on a full tour of Canada in 2007 – visiting every province and territory, with left-field choices for some of those provincial stops (Burnaby, B.C. instead of Vancouver, for instance) – the people rejoiced. Finally, a band would pay due respect to the other half of North America, and recognize our importance and worth in the touring arena. But of course, since this is Jack White we’re talking about, the event became so much more.
Besides the amazing evening stadium shows, the band also held impromptu mini-shows during the daytime in every city and town they stopped in, resulting
in spontaneous musical joy that delighted young and old alike. Whether it was a bowling alley in Saskatchewan, the Cantos Music Foundation in Calgary, a café in Yellowknife, or on a bus in Winnipeg (singing “The Wheels on the Bus,” of course), it became so much more than a tour; it became something of a Canadian legend.
That legend has now been recorded for prosperity on both CD and film, bundled together as Under Great White Northern Lights. The fact that this is the White Stripes’ first live album makes it even more of a compliment, and while the disc is certainly worth listening to (especially for raging versions of “Jolene” and “Let’s Shake Hands”), it’s the film that makes this package worth springing for.
The band already has a live DVD in their repertoire (the England-set Under Blackpool Lights), so it’s refreshing that director Emmett Malloy and the Stripes take a different route. This becomes a documentary about two bandmates who have been together for 10 years bearing the toll of the road, and although the concert footage is electrifying and welcome,
and the scenes with the daytime shows charming and poignant, it’s the interviews and backstage drama that form the core of the film.
“Drama” shouldn’t suggest Jack and Meg are constantly bickering; in fact, the two are rather sweet most of the time, and Malloy captures small, telling moments,
like when Jack regards Meg falling
asleep on a couch while still clutching her cigarette, or a montage of the two walking across the Nunavut tundra while a live reading of “We Are Going To Be Friends” plays overtop.
Meg does little other than play the drums and mutter so quietly that subtitles
are employed, but she’s still given moments to shine. A visit to an old fort in Halifax results in Meg being ordered to yell “fire!” at the command of a senior officer,
resulting in cannon blasts. And her performance of “In the Cold, Cold Night” is chilling and sweet as always.
But naturally, Jack easily draws attention, whether it be his dynamic performances onstage, introducing his new guitar “Rita” (named after Rita Hayworth, whose face adorns the back) to a group of Inuit elders before playing an old Blind Willie McTell song, or simply waxing philosophical over the nature of creativity. That last facet puts Under Great White Northern Lights in the echelon of eye-opening band documentaries like The Last Waltz or The Filth and the Fury, letting the band speak for itself instead of letting the pundits drool over their “importance.”
It’s been three years since the White Stripes crossed Canada in one of the most loving and appreciative displays by a band for a country’s history and worth ever witnessed (their amps even displayed maple leafs). Since that time, Meg had to leave the road due to anxiety, and Jack has seemed busier than ever: starting a third band, The Dead Weather, opening Third Man Records in Nashville, directing videos, producing artists and even appearing with The Edge and Jimmy Page in the guitar documentary It Might Get Loud. And yet, despite the feeling that Jack White is truly everywhere
these days, we still pine for a new White Stripes album and tour. Maybe the people in Nunavut or the Yukon will never see the pair again. But it must feel good for them, and for all of Canada, that they even took the time to come at all, and care so much. For that, we should feel lucky…and now that we get to relive those memories forever, we may never need to see them in the flesh again. But it would be nice
More tracks on the racks
Who knew four animated monkeys could have transported us to this point in time when their electro-funk-hip-pop isn’t just a thing of the future? Gorillaz have finally brought to us their third studio album Plastic Beach, supported by a great tracklist with an even better list of collaborations. Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, and Lou Reed are only some of the featured artists you’ll be hearing on this set. This is their most memorable to date, as some of their best songs are to be heard here. Take a few listens to get a real good feel for our talented animated friends.
Movie soundtracks are always fun: there is no pressure for them to be great, but choosing the right songs can be crucial in defining key parts of epic movies. The Runaways soundtrack resonates a 1970s retro vibe, filled
with catchy electric guitar riffs and lyrics that scream rock-chick rebellion. The CD even features performances from two of the movie’s actresses,
Dakota Fanning and Kirsten Stewart. Fanning demonstrates she is not a little girl anymore, singing some of The Runaways’ originals, including “Cherry Bomb.” If I had to pick one place to play this album, I would probably pick the roller derby.
Ever since they broke up in 1999, Pavement’s stock has continued to rise, if only in the underground scene they ruled for 10 years. Their reunion tour this summer has been one of the most rapturously received events of the year, and since younger music fans will no doubt be dragged along by their excited older siblings, there’s now a one-disc, 23-track primer that includes their best-known almost-hits, as well as deeper album cuts. There wouldn’t be modern indie guitar music without Pavement, so this is a must-have for anyone looking for a little blast to the past that still sounds uniquely modern.
MGMT “Flash Delirium”
These psychedelic acid rockers were able to mix the weird with the tuneful with past hits like “Kids.” With the first track released from their sophomore release, Congratulations, the duo amps up the crazy. The track jumps from genre to genre, and yet it all sounds like a whole, rather than an ADD child’s experiment. Reports suggest that Congratulations will be even more off-the-wall, which just goes to show that a Grammy nomination
doesn’t always influence a band’s desire to push the envelope.
She & Him “In The Sun” video
If you’re a fan of Zooey Deschanel – and who isn’t in love with this sparkling pixie – then you’ll appreciate this video for her and M. Ward’s first single from their upcoming album, Volume Two. The song itself is pleasant enough folk-pop, and Deschanel’s voice is sweet and not at all over-the-top. The video takes it into a whole new realm of cute, a mix of the clips for Feist’s “1234” and Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” that includeshoola hoops and choreographed dancing.
T.I. “I’m Back”
He sure is. After almost a year in prison on weapons charges, the Southern rapper is currently finishing up his sentence under house arrest, and it sounds like he’s been putting his home recording studio to good use. Over an absolutely massive synth beat reminiscent of past hits such as “What You Know,” T.I. reasserts himself as the ultimate badass of the South; and with Lil’ Wayne starting his own year-long silence, this takeover of the throne couldn’t have come at a better time.