Thursday, June 24, 2010

It Might Get Loud

I wasn't sure how much to expect from this movie. The premise is straightforward enough: three excellent, innovative guitarists from different generations get together to talk and play. Could have been one hour of boring talking heads being pompous and elitist, and one hour of concert footage I've already seen.

And there was certainly some of both of those. There were a handful of bits of video footage I'd seen plenty of times, like excerpts from The Song Remains The Same. As for pompous elitism, Jack White easily wins as the most elitist and pompous of the three (the other two being Jimmy Page and The Edge), particularly because of his tendency of attributing anything that works for his creative process as being innate in the universal creative process. (For him, the entire process comes down to hardship, in making it difficult for himself in every way possible. Nothing wrong with that, but he seems so utterly convinced that this is universal and the only path to creativity or fulfillment that it hasn't even occurred to him to consider otherwise.)

Jimmy Page, by contrast, came off a lot less elitist than I expected (given some of his comments in recent press, particularly about rhythm games, as well as some older comments from the heyday of Zeppelin). He's also looking clean and sharp -- back in the 80s he looked like a shadow of himself, wasted by hard living, but he's looking healthy (for his age), and his guitar-playing is confident and strong, maybe not flashy or innovative as in the 70s but leaving no doubt that he can still hold his own against anyone.

The Edge seemed quiet, reserved, and in a way, timeless. Back in the 80s when U2 hit its big break, he seems to have gotten comfortable with what he was doing. Since then, he's been innovating how he does it, never resting, but he shows no signs of needing to change what he does, or to reinvent himself. This is something you can see in other musicians from the same time period who managed to survive it; the late 70s and most of the 80s produced so many bands that burned bright and disappeared, but those that endured often have the same quiet sense of comfort about what they're doing that The Edge has. I'd like to see him chatting with the guys from Rush for this reason.

There was also a lot of interesting things I didn't know about all three of them, in the history of each musician, including some adorable bits of footage of each of them in their youth -- Jimmy Page playing skiffle as a teenager, and an early U2 video when they were barely out of high school, were particularly surprising. And there was, naturally, some jamming, and some talk about technique, though very little of the latter. And a lot of talking about the creative process, about their influences, about how they felt about music, about their gear and why they used it the way they did. Along the way we got to see each of them creating music, and exposing us to their influences (one incidental treat there was watching Jimmy Page play air guitar; it's nice to know even one of the greatest guitarists of all time plays air guitar when listening to records).

Somehow it added up to more than the sum of its parts. I can't put my finger on what about it made it so entertaining, so interesting, so absorbing, but it really was. Even Siobhan, who isn't as into music as I am and never tried to learn to play guitar, and who only knows a handful of White Stripes songs, described it as "six kinds of awesome" (and I hadn't even expected her to want to watch it -- she wasn't even in the room when I started it). So if you're interested in rock music at all, this might be worth dropping onto your Netflix queue.

No comments: