It’s a short one this week. We’re in the peak of summer, there’s still lots of music dropping, and it’s all…meh.
Favorite New Track of the Week: “A Tip From You to Me” by Jack White
‘Ask yourself if you are happy and then you cease to be’
That’s the opening line of “A Tip From You to Me”, the opener to “Entering Heaven Alive”, Jack White’s 5th LP and the sister album to his 4th record “Fear of the Dawn” which came out earlier this year.
That lyric is the titular ‘tip’ of my favorite track of the week, and maybe the best line on the entire album.
That’s not saying much unfortunately.
The next 8 tracks on “Entering Heaven Alive” got nothing more than a sigh or an unflattering comparison out of me.
“Help Me Along” sounds like a Nick Jr. version of the Red Dead Redemption 2 soundtrack. “Love is Selfish”, an early single, has not grown on me.
“I’ve Got You Surrounded (With My Love)” tries to overcome a cringe title with a… “Give Up the Funk” interpolation? I don’t think I need to say that didn’t work.
I would believe you if you told me “Queen of the Bees” was ripped from a Banjo Kazooie level. “A Tree on Fire Within” is…a song.
Things briefly pick up with “Please God Don’t Tell Anyone”, which at least has some more focused songwriting. I actually really like “A Madman From Manhattan”, by far the best storytelling White has to offer here and the only worthwhile rhythm on the album.
Is this a bad LP? No. It’s fine, I guess. Some of the low-energy tracks might grow on me a bit with a couple more listens.
But this album did confirm my (and everyone else’s) concerns when it became clear White’s duo of releases this year would split the two extremes of his music into their own albums instead of the usual mix.
Congratulations everyone, we were right. Bad idea.
There are some decent tracks on “Entering Heaven Alive”. Tweak a few things on each of them, pepper them into “Fear of the Dawn” – a much stronger LP whose greatest flaw was a lack of sonic versatility – and you’d get one really great album instead of one really good one and a forgettable one.
Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys
“Pet Sounds” vs. “Sgt. Pepper” is my least favorite conversation music fans have.
It’s not because of the debate itself. Both albums occupy similar spaces in the musical canon. Same era, same genre, same acclaim. Comparisons make sense. Picking a favorite makes sense.
No it’s everything around the debate that is so irritating, most of it coming from the exaggerated mythos that swirls around The Beatles and their impact on music.
Are The Beatles influential? Arguably the most popular band of all-time? Is the height of Beatlemania a touchstone moment in human history, let alone music history? Yes, yes and yes.
But the idea that all of the music of the last 60 years sounds the way it does because of Lennon & McCartney is just preposterous.
This is a pretty popular sentiment amongst a certain segment of music fans, the ones that only listen to guitar music sung by white dudes, with the occasional Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin being let into the boys club (you know who you are).
Music has always and will always borrow from what’s come before it. Riffing on established sounds is the bedrock of songwriting. No matter what decade you’re looking at, the most popular acts were not the most experimental or groundbreaking.
They were the acts that innovate just enough to be cutting-edge while still keeping their music familiar enough to click with the masses.
The Beatles are no different. No one band seismically shifts music. The Beatles were one of many bands pushing rock and pop forward in the 60’s and 70’s, in the same way a handful of acts did it in the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and now.
One of their contemporaries were the Beach Boys. And a popular hipster take to counter the Beatles’ cult of personality is that ‘they just ripped off Pet Sounds and Brian Wilson deserves all the credit for inventing modern pop music’.
“Pet Sounds” is great. It also did not invent pop music. Just like “Kind of Blue” did not invent Cool Jazz. Just like “Nevermind” did not invent Grunge. Just like “Rodeo” did not invent Trap.
And that’s ok. All of these records can still be classics.
This need for one of these two albums to be the root of everything that’s good about music is peak-boomerism that has infected the next generations of music snobs.
Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
“Pet Sounds” > “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.