Yo, Jack

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Dear John,
You got married today, eh? Good on ya, boyo, if true. Of course, one never knows. Neat little package of personal publicity on the eve of your record release. The sneaky "hack" leak on the Web site. Charming (in a "digitally-integrated viral marketing plan" way). I’d like to take this opportunity to pledge that I will no longer bite on the continuous passive-aggressive press bait — "pay attention to the music"/"pay attention to my publicity stunts." You got a reaction, didn’t you?

The predictable mixed reaction from the mainstream media that’s followed the loosing of Get Behind Me Satan — fawning fellating from The New York Times, scratched heads elsewhere — makes me more suspicious still. (BTW, why leave out the pretentious "Thee"?) These are just rough sketches, right? A tangled-up-in-blue-period-of-self-portraiture confusion on the way to the Big Rock Record? Why rush to the marketplace with such half-baked ideas and arrangements as "Red Rain" and "Denial Twist" when they could have been served well had they cooked a bit longer. Honestly, the Stripes haven’t really made "songs" their wheelhouse. At least that’s what my "where are the songs?" friends constantly claim. But I’ve always admired the Stripes’ ability to blast through with sugar-addled ADD skits that leave only a thin, rapidly disappearing veneer of resonant emotion. It’s that confounding quicksilver characteristic that’s kept me coming back to pretty much every record the Stripes have made. But it’s sorely lacking here. Break it on down, indeed. GBMS feels thinner, tossed-off. In short, there’s no "there" there. Sure, the refrain from "Doorbell" has been running around inside my head for the last few days. Repetition’ll do that. (BTW, tell Meg that "funky" suits her.) "Blue Orchid" lights up a radio signal well. But then again, so does most mid-’70s hard rock. In the context of the record it sounds like a hedged bet, something to move records about which future music scribes will surely use phrases like "redeeming track" and "confounding duality" ’n’ shit. "I’m Lonely, But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet" is beautiful in its Faulknerian emotional claustrophobia. "The Nurse" is damned creepy — a painting among doodles. But the ideas, tones and riffs are set on repeat and the edges bleed together, ultimately taking you nowhere in 44 minutes and 17 seconds besides inside the noodle of a conflicted rock star.

It’s no sin to throw a preemie record out to the public. But it all seems a bit calculated. You don’t have to say it ain’t so, but if you’re looking to destroy — even temporarily — the house that you and Meg built, don’t expect everyone to dance among the broken bricks.

Chris Handyside writes about music for the Metro Times. E-Mail [email protected].

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