Today, the judges get to grips with The Raconteurs. Radiohead coming up tomorrow.
Danny Kelly: I have a vast record collection, and one corner of it is devoted to people who dress up like it’s the middle of the 19th century. I mean that. I’ll buy any record, and it’s almost always Americans, where the artists have dressed up like it was around the time of their civil war. So, automatically this one was already ahead of the game for me, although I have bought some very bad records by Paul Revere as a result of this particular fetish.
I think this is a great record, I think it’s a fantastic rock record. What can we do about Jack White? There are people who just hit a seam, they’re so good at what they do that you start to almost not appreciate it, because it’s like they just press a button and it pours out of them. I’m gonna make some really comparisons here, I’m sorry, but before he lost the plot Prince used to be able to go the studio, turn on the knob and there’s another great thing. Jack White has been a lot like that with The White Stripes, who seem to get better and better and better. Getting somebody else in to have a go means that he can break out of the format a little, and I think this is a lovely, noisy record.
You sent me over a lot of records to listen to, but I kept thinking “Why is it that you can’t do it and this fella can?”. It’s unpredictable, I like the way it flails, I like the way it occasionally goes off in some mad direction mid-song and decides to change shape. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as good as the Fleet Foxes, but I’d be perfectly happy to see Jack White sitting on the silver or bronze podium, getting a medal for this record. And I may also be the only person alive who likes the new James Bond theme. I rest my case.
Mark Radcliffe: I’m with you in every way, really. Jack sounds like no-one else in the world, his guitar sound is recognisable off a note. I think the songs on this are great, I think there’s attack to it, it just veers wildly everywhere. “Old Enough” I thought sounded like Jethro Tull.
Danny: He can’t really do that in The White Stripes, but he can do it here.
Mark: When I saw them at Glastonbury they were astounding. They are absolutely the pinnacle of the modern rock band, they’ve taken everything that a rock band should be. It’s almost frightening when they fire up, the drummer has that Bonham-esque blend of technique and sheer brute force. It’s like a bricklayer who can also design the building. They’re wonderful live, they look great, they sound great, the songs are great.
Danny: I think if The White Stripes hadn’t existed and this record had just come out of leftfield, people would have been going even madder about it.
Mark: I agree with everything Danny said about it, my only hesitation in praising it any more would be in case the Fleet Foxes didn’t win as a result.
Alison Howe: I prefer Brendon [Benson] and Jack to Meg and Jack, I think they’re great together. “Salute Your Solution” is one of the great songs of this year. They play extraordinarily well every time, and it never fails to make me feel like I’m going to have a heart attack, which is always a good thing. There’s lots of great songs on here, I actually didn’t like it as much as the last record when I first heard it, but it’s grown on me more.
Danny: There’s more stuff in it, isn’t there?
Alison: Yeah, it lasts a bit longer and there’s more things for you to discover.
Allan Jones: I must say that this has grown and grown and grown on me in great leaps every time I’ve gone back to it. Originally I think it would have been pretty low on my list, but over the last week as I’ve been listening to it more and more I’ve realised what I missed the first time. The first couple of tracks, they initially reminded me of the kind of band you’d see mid-afternoon on a Saturday at Reading – Widowmaker or Boilermaker, something like that.
Danny: With some umlauts in unnecessary places.
Allan: Yeah, that kind of very ‘70s riffing, but there’s a lot, lot more to it than that. Jack White is just entirely fascinating.
Alison: They’re a good-looking group as well.
Linda Thompson: Yeah, never underestimate that. He’s got great hair and skinny legs, and I’m afraid that’s very important.
Tony Wadsworth: I wanna like them more than I do, it’s the same with The White Stripes. They get me cerebrally more than they do emotionally. Technically, I really can’t fault them. Everything you’re saying about them makes me want to go back again and keep trying to really like it. My favourite Jack White album is the Loretta Lynn album he produced, actually…
Linda: What a genius record.
Tony: … probably because it’s Loretta Lynn singing. I think I don’t like his voice, but that’s me. I don’t like Robert Plant’s voice, and they’re not, I suppose, a million miles away from each other. But I do really appreciate how good he is, and the fact that Brendan’s there as well makes it easier for me to get into. I can see I’m going to have to spend more time with it as I continue to want to like it more.
Mark: I’m sure he’d really appreciate the work you’re putting in.
Allan: Put it on when you’re not expecting to like it, that’s usually a rather good way.
Danny: There’s nothing new on it, it’s just using the basic tools amped up, good songs banged out properly. If any of you find records at home that don’t do that, bung ‘em over your shoulder, they shouldn’t be there.
Linda: Yeah, but who’s got that kind of time?
Danny: What, for organising your records?!
Allan: Is there anything else to do in this world?!
Linda: I must say that Danny hit the nail on the head about Jack White, he’s so good that people take him completely for granted. He’s also become terribly nice since he got married to a girl from Manchester.
Mark: Oldham, I think.
Linda: It’s lovely for him to be able to work outside the confines of The White Stripes, although I love amateurish things and I love the way Meg drums. She only knows three fills or whatever, but I love them all. I just like that kind of amateur, in the sake of what the word means: “love of the work”. I miss Meg sometimes, but this is so beautifully played. He’s a rock star, and I love that. I can’t say enough good things about it, you can hear where he’s been influenced – I think some of it is very Beatle-y. He goes off on all different tangents, everything he does is brilliant. I loved him looking palpably nervous in the Rolling Stones movie, standing there almost dying of fright.