Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Jack White – Ice Station Zebra

A lot has been claimed for the special effects of “Ice Station Zebra” – which made it disconcerting to find them so bad.” – Roger Ebert


Julian Axelrod: The White Stripes were one of my earliest favorite bands, and the first one I remember discovering for myself. Of course, that doesn’t give me ownership over Jack White’s music or his creative trajectory. But as someone who’s been listening to this man’s many, many (honestly too many) songs for over a decade, I can confidently say this is the worst song Jack White has ever released. Everything about this is embarrassing, from his old-timey prospector flow to the messy, muddy mix. (It’s hard to give him credit for finally using Pro Tools when the end result sounds like a teenager fucking around on GarageBand.) It even contradicts every dumbass talking point he’s been spouting for the past decade: He disses cell phones on his foray into “digital” production, and dismisses originality on his first song in years that doesn’t sound like Robert Johnson cosplay. But most of all, it bums me out to see how far White’s strayed from what he used to be. The simplicity of The White Stripes kept him from going too far off the path, but if there’s something salvageable in “Ice Station Zebra” (ugh) it’s buried under ten miles of bullshit. I know it’s pointless to long for the good old days. But I grew up listening to Jack White, so can you really blame me?

Ryo Miyauchi: Jack White goes Beck, though not quite kitchen-sink as Odelay — and honestly, thank goodness. It’s a curious shake-up of his blues-rock poster-boy image, but mostly a tedious exercise in early hip-hop.

Alfred Soto: An ass, but also a genuine weirdo. All he can do is create a frisson from the interaction of formal elements: he has nothing to say about life, love, or the tergiservations of the stock market. The light hip-hop cadences, drums, and piano work. White doesn’t interfere. What’s there to dislike?

Katherine St Asaph: There are two parts to this song: the part that sounds like Earthboundified saloon music, and the part that sounds like Jack White rapping, specifically rapping a meme-generator translation of recent Morrissey lyrics. Guess which wins out?

Will Adams: The first forty-five seconds are actually a pleasant surprise: the knotted drums trade off with more psychedelic breaks of reversed piano to dizzying but fun effect. And then you realize that Jack White’s approach to rap is about on par with Barney Rubble.

Alex Clifton: It’s not the Spongebob meme du jour, but I made the exact same face Patrick makes here as I listened to this.

Hannah Jocelyn: Maybe it’s because I’ve been following the implosion of online media company Channel Awesome, but where everyone keeps hearing the Fresh Prince of Bel Air or the Fruity Pebbles rap in this song, I keep hearing Channel Awesome’s nadir, the Supervillan Shuffle. Unlike that, the haphazard major-key pianos, the drums, the rapping (“that’s an insult Joe!”) of this song are meant to baffle and do. It’s strangely captivating, not like a car crash but like an Oldsmobile that’s skidding down the highway but miraculously still drives at 60 mph, but not any faster. There’s not even the sort of internal logic or consistency that powers other “misunderstood masterpieces” — and “misunderstood masterpiece in the making” is just such a weird, nihilistic, post-postmodern thing to say, especially when it seems engineered to be viewed like that.

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