In January 2008, three generations of guitarists met in Los Angeles to ostensibly discuss the future of electric guitars. Whether or not that took place is uncertain, as Loud functions as more of a history about these particular musicians and their creative processes’, or as simply a jam session of which we get the tiniest vox populi snippets. Representing the early 60’s we have Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, for early 80’s we have U2’s The Edge (real name TBD), and for the early Aughts hipster extraordinaire Jack White, who receives the bulk of the film’s screen time by far (hope you like him!). Introductions aside, applause. But not so fast – they might be giants.
Each musician speaks of his origins. Jimmy Page, from quite a different era, had to overcome the 50’s pop pablum know as ‘Skiffle,’ which is basically an unthreatening combination of our traditional rock bands, minus the rock and plus modernized folk tunes. Needless to say it was not loud; one could grow old to it. Jimmy Page, as a rather intelligent youngster and highly proficient Skiffler, helped Americans perk their ears and blink awake with The Yardbirds, and then finally discover real loudness through Led Zeppelin. The iconic Zeppelin image of a naked winged man, arched in triumph. arms to the heavens, seems representative of Page’s musical ambition; namely, to achieve orgasm (he did come of age in the 60’s, after all).
The Edge, who receives the least screen time, is a very nice man who responded to the right ad in grade school. He came of age in Dublin during a spate of awful violence via the IRA, saw devastation around him, and like a character in a Macross-anime, tried to save the day with music (I’ll add that it helps one view this docu if they share this almost mystical appreciation of the power of music). Edge played to balance the violence in his life with positive ‘good times’ and most importantly, for his own comprehension of clarity – perhaps he should be called The Center. However, without a war to transcend, Edge’s passion never appeared to reach the fever pitch that got him noticed in the first place. That’s the problem with being a musician – an inner fire is generally required, and inner fires usually only accompany youth. How many artists are career musicians, how many go on for decades? All I’m saying is ‘not many.’ Edge has a few doubts, but heads to his beach and keeps searching for the Earth’s rock (to Bono’s toe-tap).
Which brings us to Jack White, an odd amalgam of poor-black-blues-crooner and dime-a-dozen hipster party dood. His talent is unquestioned, but his modus operendi remains a mystery to this viewer. Growing up in a crappy Detroit house, the youngest of 10 siblings, was excellent practice for learning to make his voice heard against all odds. And now that I think about it, growing up as the only white family in his neighborhood might just explain why he’s so obsessed with being an old black blues crooner himself… but does not explain why The Raconteurs could not sound further from them. The Raconteurs may very well be simply the product of the success of The White Stripes, both bands seeming to me to be equally incidental and irreverent (lord knows Meg White acted that way). I know from experience that White’s Raconteurs have been prominently inspired by the violently inventive Mars Volta, and White appears to me as a man who feels entitled to succeed through his talents, but whose individual inspirations are somewhat bereft without the shoulders of others, perhaps destined to say little more than a hunched old crooner on a box with a ratty old guitar and his woes. But woe is White without anymore woes to speak of… in Loud he does go on to say that he prefers to suffer through his music, that nothing easy (namely technological advances) assists art. There is a flair of indignance in White, a dash of punk in his passion, but what does he rock ‘against?’ Out of the ghetto, he grew up. Now grow up.
Director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) is too sexy to be trusted. Loud feels not like the youthful artistic spark it centers on, but like a corporate training video about those sparks. There is nothing raw about it. I would even go so far as to say that Guggenheim may just be a star-fucker… as such I do have a difficult time picturing a target audience who are fans of Zeppelin, U2, and Jack White. How old is this person…? Does he have any more than a generalized appreciation of music…? Does he listen to the radio considerably more than he listens to the albums he personally owns…? Loud disguises itself as a film about technical expertise only to be unmasked as a Coca-Cola printed with a nostalgic label (“You see, we know our history!”). Jack White speaks of other musicians, “That family of storytellers… You’re supposed to join the family, become part of it.” That’s certainly how White feels, and Davis wanted it too.
written by David Ashley