So the other day, I was in the shower listening to Gordon Lightfoot on my phone, as one does. I got out and picked up my phone and saw that the song I just listened to, “If You Could Read My Mind,” was covered by Neil Young. As I enjoy Neil Young, I was interested to know what it sounded like.
The short answer is that it sounded like it was recorded in a phone booth. I glanced at the album artwork and Neil Young did, in fact, appear to be standing in a phone booth. Some quick research showed that Neil Young actually recorded an album in what is effectively a phone booth at Jack White’s studio in Nashville.
This made me remember that Jack White is objectively the worst thing to happen to rock & roll ever. He’s both an avatar and a catalyst of everything wrong with the kitschy, ironic, self-aware and self-referential rock & roll bands that have cropped up since the turn of the century.
I remember when The White Stripes first got big in the late '90s. All of a sudden, the most annoying people at bars and clubs were into some cutesy-poo band playing an approximation of garage rock.
I gave the band a listen. It’s not that they didn’t have a good tune here and there. It’s just that actual songs were few and far between. For the most part, The White Stripes always sounded like some kid sitting on the edge of his bed, noodling around to Led Zeppelin records — except without all the fun and vitality that implies.
It’s not just Jack White's music that I hate. I hate everything about him. I hate him for making Eric Clapton look like Son House. I hate his stupid hats. I hate his “Look at me, I'm so obscurely retro!”–shaped guitars. I hate that his entire career is built on matching outfits and twee appropriations of what is actually good music. I hate him because Brochella is filled with guys in bucket hats and koi sleeves who know every White Stripes song but have never heard The Mooney Suzuki, The Oblivians, The Delta 72 or the approximately 50,000 other bands who did the same thing Jack White tries to do but way, way better.
But probably most of all, I hate him for being some kind of standard bearer for rock & roll in 2015.
At a party recently, a friend of mine was talking about how there are people who don’t know anything about music, people who do know a lot about music, and this strange area of people who think they know a lot about music but actually don’t know shit. Jack White is the god of guys who think they knows a lot about music but actually don't know shit.
I expect more death threats from this article than I got from trashing Pearl Jam four years ago. There’s an army of almost-stylish urbanites who worship this guy, whether they do it openly or at least have the good sense to keep quiet about it.
I’m not one of those “there’s no good music anymore” guys. There’s tons of good music out there today. But the devotees of Jack White are responsible for a disproportionately large amount of very bad music. An entire cottage industry of zombie blues has sprung up around his unholy presence in American music. The White Stripes were basically Blueshammer come to life. We’ll no doubt be staring at his ghostly mug for the next 40 years on the cover of Rolling Stone, like some kind of Silver Lake–friendly version of Eric Clapton. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. I sure don’t.