Friday, December 3rd, 2021

Jack White – Taking Me Back

A [7.00] rating? Hardly!


John S. Quinn-Puerta: They came from across the land to hear it, the world’s most annoying fuzz. “Surely, Mr. White can’t have made his signature sound entirely grating,” they said, clutching their pearls as they approached the speakers, hoping for a serviceable song to showcase Jack’s particular proclivities. And as the curtain rose, the clippy, buzzing monstrosity almost overwhelmed the shape of the song itself — but only almost.

Harlan Talib Ockey: All right, I’ve been an obsessive Jack White fan for longer than I’d care to admit, so I’m legally obligated to weigh in on this. First of all, these lyrics are atrocious. It sounds like he’s desperately trying to wring something witty out of the double meaning of “taking me back” and just hitting wall after wall. I can’t believe the guy who wrote “That Black Bat Licorice” even brought these to the first draft phase. Second of all, as tempting as it might be to read any upbeat single with a recognizable riff and structure as an attempt to back away from the polarizing experimentation of Boarding House Reach, this is still… disquieting? Subversive? Pretty strange? The breakdown about two minutes in is definitely more abrasive than anything on that record; I feel like my skull is being crushed in a vice. There’s also the subtle weirdness of how solitary this is. White’s solo work has never actually been solo work, not once you factor in the plethora of guest vocalists, strings, keys, and so on. All of that is stripped away here. For the first time, it’s just White alone, limited to whatever sounds he can make himself. It’s a great Man vs. Wild episode, and it’s compelling to see him explore a kind of minimalism that sounds acutely unlike the White Stripes. But ultimately, I think I appreciate this song’s constituent parts and concepts more than I enjoy listening to it as a whole. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to rewind and get my skull crushed again.


Iain Mew: The moments of guitars slamming into a brick wall and of retro synth glitter could be plenty enjoyable in isolation. Making them part of something that’s split equally between doggerel and theatrical knowing winks manages to finish off even that, though.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: I admire Jack White’s commitment here to embracing all the ugliest parts of his music and none of the pretty ones — he’s stripped down the baroque arrangements and nostalgic winks of late-period White Stripes and his early solo music but has not returned to what made him so interesting when he first arrived. It’s unclear if he wants to, either. The only thing left in “Taking Me Back” is a fundamental rage and discontent, a brute force demonstration of talent in the service of divorced dad vibes.

Alfred Soto: I spent last Sunday listening to Billy Squier singles. They’re faster, hence schlockier. Jack White can’t distinguish shtick from schlock. 

Ian Mathers: When you watch a lot of YouTube stuff as background while you work, the fact that you’ll see or hear the same ad dozens of times a day gets old real quick. There’s one right now for some buttrock Call of Duty game (or CoD-style, I honestly wasn’t paying attention) with a super annoying stompy musical sting. “Taking Me Back” starts up and I was all prepared to write this blurb about how amazing it is that Jack White now makes music that’s not that different from shooter video game trailer music, and then just as my brain went “wait, doesn’t the guy in that go ‘you’re taking me back’?” White starts singing and I realize it’s the exact song from the trailer. It’s also the most I’ve enjoyed a song he’s sung since “Seven Nation Army”, mainly because it’s nothing but that dumbass clip part repeated over and over, White’s vocals sound a lot less like “Jack White”, and the synths sound like he’s been listening to “Myxomatosis” and Dead Rider or something. I know it’s going to be 50/50 at best whether I find this song deeply aggravating any time I run into it in the future, but it also feels like the kind of song I don’t like most of the time and then would hear on the PA at a bar like five beers in and go “wait, this rules”. You could say I’m having a hard time separating my disdain and respect here.

Edward Okulicz: In some ways this sounds like a White Stripes take on the sort of rock they sounded so fresh against 20 years ago. If squelchy buttrock from Jack White is your idea of alluring and sexy, I’m afraid I have no words for you. But it is rather amusing, so on this occasion I have no words for myself, either.

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