Warn­ing: this col­umn may con­tain traces of lies

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion - Brian Boyd on mu­sic

Mu­sic jour­nal­ists are the stu­pid­est and lazi­est peo­ple on earth. Even with so many new re­search tools at their dis­posal they still man­age to get it wrong. At least 90 per cent of what they write is just lifted from press re­leases. You can even put a num­ber of out­ra­geous in­ac­cu­ra­cies into a press re­lease, and mu­sic jour­nal­ists will dumbly re­port them as facts. For this rea­son, and oth­ers, re­mem­ber that at least 90 per cent of what­ever you read in any mu­sic pub­li­ca­tion is sim­ply un­true – and you’d be bet­ter off just mak­ing up your own things to be­lieve about any given band.

The above is (gosh, I hope) a pretty ac­cu­rate para­phras­ing of re­marks made by Jack White (White Stripes/Racon­teurs) about the mu­sic press.

How much truth is con­tained in the re­marks, you’ll have to de­cide for your­self. White’s ar­gu­ment seems to stem from what hap­pened to a phony press re­lease is­sued by the band.

In 2003, The White Stripes re­leased their Ele­phant album, which was gen­er­ally re­ceived with rap­tur­ous re­views. How­ever the per­son who wrote the record com­pany re­lease for Ele­phant de­cided to in­sert a lit­tle joke about the band’s strict in­sis­tence about what type of stu­dio equip­ment they used. It was stated that none of the band’s equip­ment was made af­ter 1963. The idea be­ing that The White Stripes were so “au­then­tic” the stu­dio equip­ment had to be too.

Most all of the re­views of Ele­phant re­peated the “fact” about the band us­ing only dated stu­dio equip­ment. Some re­view­ers took it even fur­ther, ar­gu­ing that be­cause of the vin­tage stu­dio equip­ment used, the band had cre­ated a sound that was “earthy and low-tech” and in glo­ri­ous con­trast to all the other com­puter-gen­er­ated al­bums that were re­leased at the same time.

“It was just a fun thing to do to make that up,” says Jack White now about the prank. “Be­fore you knew it, peo­ple thought we wouldn’t touch a piece of equip­ment un­less it’s 60 years old or some­thing! It gets to a point where you’re an­swer­ing ques­tions based on a joke some­body made.”

But then Jack White has form here: when The White Stripes first be­gan, he would tell ev­ery­one that he and drum­mer Meg White were brother and sis­ter – a false­hood that came to be ac­cepted by many. His real name though is John Gil­lis – he took Meg’s sur­name when the pair got mar­ried in 1996.

White’s an­tipa­thy to the mu­sic press con­tin­ues. His other band, The Racon­teurs, re­leased their sec­ond album this week. You won’t have read any re­views of Con­sol­ers of the Lonely – or at least you won’t have read any up un­til last Tues­day – be­cause White has said that no ad­vance copies of the album will go out to the me­dia.

“We wanted to get this record to fans, the press, ra­dio etc, all at the ex­act same time,” say The Racon­teurs. “This is so that no one has an up­per hand on any­one else re­gard­ing its avail­abil­ity, re­cep­tion or per­cep­tion. The Racon­teurs would rather this re­lease not be de­fined by its first-week sales, pre-re­lease pro­mo­tion or by some­one defin­ing it for you be­fore you get to hear it.”

All very wor­thy, I’m sure, but a bit odd when you con­sider that the pre­vi­ous Racon­teurs album was in no way harmed by “some­one defin­ing it” just be­fore its re­lease. Rolling Stone said of 2006’s Bro­ken Boy Sol­diers that “ex­pec­ta­tions were sky-high, but the Racon­teurs ex­ceed them all”, and else­where the pre-re­lease re­views were of a sim­i­larly lauda­tory na­ture.

You could see Jack White’s point if any of his pre­vi­ous re­leases had been un­fairly or er­ro­neously de­fined by the me­dia. But Jack White – whether with The White Stripes or The Racon­teurs – has only ever re­ceived gen­er­ally glow­ing re­views.

But then when you tell ev­ery­one that your wife is in fact your sis­ter, and you write a song for a Coke ad­ver­tise­ment say­ing your mo­ti­va­tion was to get a mes­sage of love out to the world, con­sis­tency is ob­vi­ously not a pri­or­ity.

Jack White: reck­ons that 90 per cent of what you read in any mu­sic pub­li­ca­tion is un­true

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