Sunday, September 13, 2009

Make it Louder

Yesterday we went to see "It Might Get Loud," a documentary about guitars through the histories of three diverse guitaritsts: Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), The Edge (U2) and Jack White (White Stripes). They are gathered together, with their favorite guitars, on a soundstage made comfortable with fluffy chairs and fruit plates. The film takes us back through each of their careers, to their roots, showing us how they came to be guitar virtuosos, focusing on some key turning points in each of their careers. Then, between those histories, we are brought back to the stage where each plays some of their favorite tunes, while the other two play along.

While Jimmy Page dominates the film in every way, the other two guitarists get more than their fair due, and I came away with a new respect for both of them, especially The Edge. Each chapter was split very evenly between the three guitarists, but while stories of The Edge and Jack White it was hard not to feel anxious when the film turned away from Jimmy Page, worried that it would take too long to come back to him.

I've never been a big fan of U2 but now I understand exactly why. The combination of the pitch of the guitar, which tends toward the higher registers, and Bono's voice, which matches, does not strike my soul. I like a deeper sound, more earthy. This film takes you through the methodology of how The Edge found that sound, and he plays a tape of one of their very early recordings of his experimentations that led to that distinct tone. One review I read or heard (I can't remember so I can't link to it) said that the film reveals how The Edge's lesser guitar talent is disguised by his mastery of electronica. I don't agree with that broad statement, but the amount of electronica in their music is more than I realized.

For me, the White Stripes was not in my cosmology of music, and now that will change. Jack White is an impressive and thoughtful musician, but I'd never been deeply exposed to their music. The name was too similar to Whitesnake and Stryper, and in my mind they were redundant. Obviously that is stupid, but they never penetrated further. I have definitely been missing out on something and will rectify it immediately. If anybody can recommend which are the best albums to buy, I would appreciate it.

The most magical scene in the film is when Jimmy Page starts to spontaneously play the guitar part of Whole Lotta Love. First, how thrilling. Second, the look on faces of The Edge and Jack White reflect exactly how the audience and filmmaker felt at that moment: how incredibly thrilling. I was thrilled.

If the timing was better I would have likely stayed through a second showing, as I left wanting more. Playing now at The Sunshine.


Dan S said...

I think you may enjoy the newly formed Dead Weather band. see this example:

and their album Horehound.

Jill said...

The song on the Dead Weather website is very earthy & bluesy and then the music video is so different. Interesting. I will get it.

Another friend recommended Icky Thump which is the most recent White Stripes.