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The White Stripes – Walking with a Ghost [EP]

May 14, 2006


I’ll level here. I LOVE The White Stripes. And I know I shouldn’t. I usually appreciate the exact opposite kind of music, stuff with layers and details. But I can’t help getting wrapped up into the detroit duo’s minimalist style. I bought Elephant right when it came out a few years ago and I was blown away. I then got White Blood Cells, and I saw the bands knack for writing straight up pop. I also got The White Stripes and De Stijl and saw the bands talent for garage blues. I love their first four albums to death.

And then I picked up Get Behind Me Satan. This should have been the kind of thing I like, or so they tell me. It was supposed to be very different, feature a lot of marimbas, and cover a myriad of styles. I was excited. I still have that newspaper page from The Onion up on my wall. While not a lot of great music came out last year, it seemed like some kind of Angel at least gave me the three things I wanted. A new Foo Fighters album, a new Gorillaz album, and a new White Stripes album. There was a lot of anticipation.

I popped in the CD and it was dreadful. I still can’t get into it. It’s just BAD. Most of the material is under par, except maybe Blue Orchid, Little Ghost, and White Moon, and MAYBE As Ugly As I Seem and Red Rain. But the rest is utter crap, and you have no idea how hard it is for me to swallow that one of my favorite, uh, “bands” made an album that truly sucked. The production is bad too. The PRODUCTION IS BAD. ON A WHITE STRIPES ALBUM. I didn’t even think it was possible at first. Sometimes Jacks voice is played back a tiny bit and the effect is completely flubbed. There are a ton of little details that people will recognize that make this album a bore and a task to listen to. Beyond that, Jack has reached a songwriting low. I don’t even like one of the hit singles “My Doorbell” very much. And Jack could have saved that one with a simple “bout” instead of a quick annoying “about.” The Nurse is a joke. Red Rain is a perfectly good riff rocker ruined by Jacks vocals and that horrid production. It’s a bad album. It happens.

HOWEVER, someone I know snagged a copy of the Blue Orchid single before I actually got Satan. I was pleased. It can be argued that this single was weirder and more out there than the actual album. Blue Orchid is a great song. I’ll admit it. And I like the B-Sides too, even though I know they are kind of bad. I ignored the live version of You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket, because I knew that it would be bad. Looking back, I was right. It must have been hard enought to get that tune right back in the studio, and near impossible live. I saw the Walking with a Ghost EP in the store some months after the disappointment of Satan, and I decided to pick it up. I already had each of the bands albums and a single, so why not start a collection?

Bad idea. The EP features five tracks, four of which are live versions of songs on the bands previous albums. The new one is actually a cover of Tegan and Sarah’s Walking with a Ghost, which gives the EP it’s name. It’s not a very good song. The tune just kind of drones and looks for a place to go, a chorus perhaps, but it never finds this comfort. And the song seems to drift between several verses without any real resolution. I was kind of hoping for a really consistant pop tune with that one. Obviously I never got it. The live tracks are half and half. The Same Boy You’ve Always known is a good take, because it is almost completely acoustic. Same with the As Ugly As I Seem performance. It is extended, and the extra few minutes are interesting. But we also have a live version of The Denial Twist, which is a song I never really liked in the studio, so I don’t like it here either. And the version of Screwdriver makes it seem like Jack is at his bursting point. He almost tries to hush his own vocals, which is a bad idea when he could clearly just explode and the performance wouldn’t break apart. Meg also drifts into a session of Passive Manipulation, which I’m sure the audience was ecstatic about.

Not a good purchase, and I regret it. I’ve been bitten on the ass again here. I’m wondering if it’s going to happen again with Jacks new little side project The Raconteurs. The critics like them, but hell, they liked Get Behind Me Satan too and look how much that let me down. In this new experience, Jack has dropped Meg for a full fledged band to work with. But I know for a fact that Meg White was NOT the problem in Get Behind Me Satan, and only had a small flub in this EP. The majority of this bands problems come from the fact that Jack has reached a new low with his songwriting, and I’m hoping he can pull himself out of this little hole he has dug himself into.

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