Thursday, April 10, 2003
Marcello Carlin's not convinced by the White Stripes either.
One wishes, as tends to be the case, that the Stripes would downplay the finally irrelevant concept of "purity" (i.e. not Britney Spears) - for Elephant is a record which can only exist in relation to 2003. Even the ploy of sending out promo copies in double vinyl format acknowledges nowness; Jack White claims that he only wanted journalists who had a record player to review it, to recapture the magic of getting up, turning the record over, etc. There are several immediate problems with this ingenuous proposal; firstly, the real reason for sending out vinyl promos was to avoid internet piracy and a consequent non-number one album chart placing. So much for "Sympathy for the Record Industry." Secondly, the act of presenting the music, on vinyl, as a double album is in itself contrived; already Gavin Martin at Uncut has fallen for the bait and become all misty-eyed about the Great Lineage of Rock Double Albums Blonde Exile Calling On Main London Street - but the fact is that the total playing time of Elephant comes in at just under 50 minutes; in other words, it could easily have fitted onto one vinyl album (cf. the equally contrived "Side A" - with the A in red - motif which appears on the sleeve of the CD version).
This got me thinking. Cf. another point Marcello makes earlier in his post:
Much has been made of the fact that no item of recording equipment used in the making of Elephant was made after 1963. This is less of a dramatic sonic throwback than one would imagine. In fact, the recording quality here is that of a Rudy Van Gelder 1963 - drums crisp, guitars very discernibly struck.
With that in mind, maybe the act of releasing the thing on double vinyl—I knew the promo copies were done on vinyl (which still didn't stop the file traders) but didn't know they were double—might also be viewed as a sort of "homage" to that period. In 1963, after all, rock albums clocking in at less than half an hour were pretty much the norm—according to an old Beatles book I have, all the American issues of the Beatles' albums up to and including Revolver came in between 24 and 29 minutes; there was a special double album thing released there in 1964 called The Beatles Story, too, a sort of audio documentary on double vinyl, which came in at slightly under 50 minutes.
So delivering Elephant as two discs of about 25 minutes each might be construed as another sort of throwback to the early 1960s of a somewhat formal and obtuse sort. The only wrinkle in the theory that I can see, of course, is that in 1963 rock bands weren't yet releasing double albums as far as I know (plus there's the purely practical consideration of putting it on vinyl to deter bootleggers, not as a homage of any sort). Still, it's an idea...