Jack White's Lazaretto Is All Gimmick, No Bite

The cover for Jack White's new album, Lazaretto
The cover for Jack White's new album, Lazaretto

The story goes, Mr. Picasso is sitting in a posh Paris café when he is approached by a young woman. She instantly recognizes the famous painter and begs him to draw for her. He snorts, until the lady offers to pay him. So Pablo whips out his pen, doodles something on a napkin and hands it to the girl.

"That'll be $100,000," Picasso says, his trademark smugness smeared across his face.

"$100,000?" The poor girl cries. "But it only took you a few seconds!"

"Just the drawing of it took a few seconds," Picasso replies. "Learning how took my entire life."

Something similar could be said of Jack White's latest single, "Lazaretto." The new tune, a preview of the album of the same name, was recorded live, pressed and released in less than four hours -- 3:55:21 to be exact. The Guinness World Record team finally gave Mr. White the nod, beating the previous record set by Swiss polka trio Vollgas Kompanie, who on August 16 2008, issued their album Live a mere day after they recorded it.

Mr. Picasso's tale, although likely fictional, springs to mind. Hard to say how long in advance the lyrics, chord changes and other musical arrangements of the song were put in place beforehand. It's not as if someone as inept at guitar as me rushed in the studio and played the first thing to come in their head. If so, the award for fastest recorded album might go out to The Shaggs or some young child guitar prodigy from Japan. Certainly not Jack White, who is 38 and began playing drums at age six, giving him 32 years to perfect Lazaretto.

Maybe that's not the point and we're splitting hairs here. Even if you disagree that Lazaretto is the world's fastest album release, Guinness says so and they're the authorities on such trivial matters. What's more important is the not-so-hidden message on the record itself, which says "Guinness" on Side A and "Can Kiss My..." on Side B.

You may remember The White Stripes played a one-note concert and then submitted that to Guinness, but the whole thing was kicked out, which made Mr. White pretty pissed. It really makes you wonder why Jack cares so much about the opinion of an organization he's clearly not a fan of.

Also consider White's recent comments about The Black Keys, accusing them of biting his style. How was that anything but a cheap publicity stunt? Just like C-list celebrities that call the paparazzi on themselves, all White had to say was something stupid that generated fake controversy so he became a trending topic, which is exactly what happened. The fact that White is borrowing just as much as The Black Keys from classic blues guitarists is totally irrelevant. In an age where publicity equals money, it's not surprising for an artist to spout some kind of beef in order to generate attention. (Of course, this is just a theory of mine, but I wouldn't be surprised if Black Keys lead singer Dan Auerbach and White were actually good friends, wining and dining in the same upscale New York restaurants, laughing all the way to the bank.)

So what about Jack's album itself? Oh, it's just fantastic! That is, if you're Jack White's number one fan. Lazaretto doesn't pack a single punch White hasn't pulled multiple times before across the spectrum of cookie-cutter bands he fronts. It doesn't sound different so much as slightly off, weary, bored. Oh, he's a little more country/Americana here? How is that thrilling? It's no wonder he was able to beat that record he cares so much about -- his music is so formulaic, borrowed and predictable. He has these gimmicks to offer, but little else.

"Entitlement" is the most honest song on the album. Lashing out at his critics, White wants to justify his attitude toward each and every project he has, and I'm actually OK with that. He's earned his place in modern rock history, and while he didn't reinvent the wheel, he made the clichés he's known for relevant again. I'll always be grateful to him for that. I guess I just wish he'd focus more on the music than trying to get everyone's attention.

Troy Farah wrote the fastest blog in the world, but Guiness won't answer his calls. Look, a wild Twitter account appeared!

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