on the beat

I found my heart quick­en­ing in exhil­a­ra­tion today as I lis­tened to the White Stripes’ “Can­non” on the bus, from their first album.  It’s Son House’s ren­di­tion of “John the Rev­e­la­tor”, piped through the dark met­al of Zep.  These guys total­ly do it for me.  Cre­ative, deeply tra­di­tion­al, rig­or­ous, and pound­ing.

What I real­ized on replay is that my emo­tion­al response is large­ly a func­tion of Meg White’s drums.  They have human tex­ture, they’re dri­ving and pri­mal, yet tight.  Her con­trol of where she lands on the beat is exquis­ite.  “Can­non” begins rolling off the back of the beat with a mud­dy bass drum, but then, as the call-and-response gets in the groove, she switch­es to crisp cym­bal and shifts to the cen­ter, give or take a mil­lisec­ond.  Jack White’s whoops and pow­er chords, also still and pre­cise despite their loud, low-fi ana­log bloom, inten­si­fy the effect.  This is the beat­ing heart, the eigen­vec­tor of some­thing.

Con­trast with Ween’s refrac­to­ry, stoned-sound­ing per­cus­sion, always rid­ing the back of the groove.  Not that Ween isn’t much loved.  It’s a ques­tion of whether the pulse ris­es or the eye­brow.

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