Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The White Stripes - "Girl You Have No Faith In Medicine" From the CD Elephant

The White Stripes Elephant CD cover

Man, I love Meg White's drumming in this song. Given Jack White's prodigious talents, it probably seems somewhat like recommending Ruth's Chris for the mashed potatoes to say so, but damn the torpedoes, you know what I mean? We're used to moving forward here with the truth of things.

I would imagine that Meg doesn't score too many points with the Neil Peart crowd for her stylings, but note well about her this, she sure as hell is enthusiastic.

At first, on "Girl You Have No Faith In Medicine," you don't even notice the percussive lower end, because her high hat/ride cymbal work is so constant. It's like an all-pervasive white noise about things, like Jack's guitar is having to push itself through a snow storm.

But dig deeper and you'll find the heartbeat beneath.

BOOM Bap BOOM BOOM BAP, bass drum, floor tom, having the shit beat out of themselves the whole way through, from when Meg comes in at around :07 til the very end. Except after each one of Jack's lead breaks, like the set of four vocal breaks beginning at :45, or the set of four guitar breaks starting at 1:34. THEN Meg comes in with an extra BOOM a half beat early before the song restarts. And it's that extra BOOM that makes the song so propulsive, that moves the song through its paces so powerfully.

Listen, there are all kinds of fools out there, talking about how shitty a drummer Meg is, how Jack or Jack's songs deserve better. There's even a clown on You Tube all proud of how his drum work on his video complicated the drum part of this song until it no longer even functioned like a heart.

But what Meg does here, what Meg does a LOT of times, actually, is all that anyone playing music ever really needs to do: she plays with fervor, and she plays aggressively, moving the song forward, instead of waiting for it to move her.

Of COURSE Jack is the more talented White Stripe. If you doubt that, just consider that he somehow found a way to rhyme "acetaminophen."

And of course musical talent matters. If it didn't, you would have never heard of a whole lot of bands whose distinction flows out of just that, from King Crimson to Tool to Tortoise.

But if you're gonna play rock and roll, firstly, you've got to rock. You've got to put the right foot forward first. It's why The Ramones were a better band than Gentle Giant, and it's why, caterwauling detractors be damned, Meg White kicks so very much ass as a drummer. . . . .


The White Stripes - Elephant - 13 Girl You Have No Faith In Medicine.mp3

This file was removed May 22, 2010. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.

File under: Color Co-ordinated Rock

5 comments:

tad said...

R: Agreed, passion & Nthusiasm R IMPORTANT. Possibly THE MOST important things in music. (There R Xceptions, but.) Give me an Nthusiastic, passionate musician NEtime over some guitar technician who can play 10,000 notes in 3/5ths of a 2nd but U don't hear NEthing Bhind all that virtuosity.... Give me some1 who MEANS IT, always.
(Course this could lead us in2 a long discussion about how many ways U can tell when an artist MEANS IT.)
But, "The Ramones were a better band than Gentle Giant"? Can U compare apples & oranges like this? It's like saying Ringo Starr & Charlie Watts were better drummers than Bill Bruford & Neal Peart. 4 their bands' approaches they were each 1 perfect, tho their styles as drummers were wildly diffrent.
I could say the Giant had more memorable songs than the Ramones, but I'm sure no Xpert on the Ramones (like what I've heard, which ain't all that much). Could back U if U were 2 say the Ramones were a better band than, say, the Damned -- or even the Sex Pistols. In fact, I doubt NE1 would argue. But Ramones, Pistols & Damned (& the Clash, etc.) all had approaches similar enuf that U could compare them (I think).
Like U could compare King Crimson & ELP, or Yes & Genesis, or Gentle Giant & Jethro Tull, or mix&match NE of these 6. U'd never have an Nd 2 the discussion, but U could do it.
As 4 me, sounds like I need 2 look in2 the White Stripes, 2....-- TAD.

rastronomicals said...

Tad

Thanks for commenting and for reading.

First off, I'll just say that I'm not even that big of a Ramones fan, and I suspect their greatness has often been overstated.

The two albums of theirs I bought (the first one and Road to Ruin) certainly have their moments, but are *not* great all the way through. And I've also noticed that many of the serious covers of their songs I've heard tend to be better than the originals.

Anyway, I used their name here as it so often is--as emblematic of the punk rock musician. Could've been anyone, really.

But my reference to Gentle Giant was carefully considered. I meant to say what I did. It seems you disagree, but my exposure to Gentle Giant (Octopus, In A Glass House, The Power and the Glory) has led me to conclude that, on the whole, their music, while proficient, is cold and passionless. While they are a rock band, they very rarely rock.

Which is, you know, the point.

Keeping in mind my opinion on The Ramones, to suggest that the only bands they can be compared to are within their own genre is to ghettoize both them and their genre. You diminish them both.

Which is why I made a specific point of comparing them to a band who are without question superior to them in instrumental ability.

Because you can and should be able to make that comparison, for The Ramones' sake, but also for Gentle Giant's.

I'll stay with what I said, and with what Meg White exemplifies: Great if you can do both, but if not, it's better to be passionate than to be virtuostic.

And yeah, The Ramones are thus a better band than Gentle Giant.

If you don't play with passion, you're ruined, no matter how dextrous you are on your chosen instrument.

tad said...

R: Yes, butbutbutbut.... Well, I sure don't wanna ghetto-ize NEbody. That would B like characterizing summa my faves as "great science fiction writers," when in fact they R great writers, period. Or at least greatly Njoyable writers. I get yr point. & I shoulda Cn it.
4 me, the Ramones have a coupla great songs: "I Just Wanna Have Something to Do" (PERFECT!) & "Blitzkrieg Bop," coupla others R at least funny: "Teenage Lobotomy," etc. & if it sounds like my Xperience w/ them is limited 2 ROCK & ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, well, U've got the right impression, pretty much.
About whether Gentle Giant ever rocked, sometimes I feel about them as I often do w/ King Crimson -- that instead of Bing clever & odd, they'd B better off just powerin thru w/ more guitar! Or whatever. But at least there R times KC does rock: "Red," "The Great Deceiver," the last 2/3rds of "Starless," "Fracture," the "Lark's Tongues" epics, "Sleepless," "Frame by Frame," "Elephant Talk," "Indiscipline," "Level Five," etc. & at least they occasionally crack a joke....
Did GG ever rock? POWER & GLORY's about their most stripped-down album I've heard, & "Proclaimation" comes close 2 rocking; there's SOME kind of kinetic movement in "Cogs in Cogs," my fave on that album; & the title track of POWER/GLORY (available only as a quickly-withdrawn single & on the GIANT STEPS best-of, & probly elsewhere) does rock, I think. Why it wasn't on the album beats me....
But did they mean it, or were they just Bing arty? "Peel the Paint" (on 3 FRIENDS) rocks pretty loudly & Cms plenty passionate. But summa their loud moments R just painful ("Plain Truth," the slightly-better "Free Hand"). I think at least the live version of "Funny Ways" is pretty passionate, tho deeply twisted. Same 4 the middle of "His Last Voyage" (on FREE HAND). Whenever things got 2 quiet, guitarist Gary Green always Cmd 2 toss-in a loud, memorable, edgy or lyrical gtr phrase -- as on "Pentegruel's Nativity" (on ACQUIRING THE TASTE), or even in middle of "The Runaway," which I don't actually like much. & "The Advent of Panurge" on OCTOPUS is pretty passionate, tho it's hard 2 figure out what the hell it's about -- I think it's a song about demonic possession, but I shouldn't havta go read Francoise Rabelais or whoever in order 2 find out....
Summa their other stuff is cool as an Xperiment ("Knots," which don't rock), or just has a neat musical texture ("Raconteur Troubadour," "Time to Kill").
Agree they coulda thot less & rocked more, & bn better. U may B on2 something. Sure got me thinkin NEway.... -- TAD.

Anonymous said...

Just now stumbled onto this -- and it's about my favorite song from my favorite band! You make some excellent points here. Jack White's musical genius is all over the map with his many projects, but there is something very special about The White Stripes, and that special quality is mainly due to the presence and hearty drumming of Meg White.

Jack himself said that it was Meg's drumming that originally inspired the whole concept of the band -- the unique sound and theme and aesthetic feel and all. If not for Meg White, none of us would ever have heard of The White Stripes at all. We might never even have heard of Jack White, either. (Although talent of that magnitude is hard to hide, and he might have hit it big with some other project.)

Personally, Meg's drumming was one of the most appealing things to me when I first got into the Stripes. It was so bold and clear cut, not muddied up with lots of needless flourishes. About "Medicine" in particular, her drumming is so central here. But this song is also great for Jack White's guitar work, of course -- and his vocals, which are just stunning here. So many different voices in one song, and all of it spinning madly and dizzily on the edge of apocalypse.

I get so tired of the meek, insipid pablum I hear on the radio all the time. A song like this won't let you snooze through life, it grabs you by the collar and whirls you around, while shrieking hysterically in your face. I totally *love* it!

rastronomicals said...

Not sure who you were Anonymous, and I know it's been three months, but I'm just seeing this now, and boy, what a great, enthusiastic comment.

Do come back and say things in its vein as often as you like.

And thanks