"She's built for speed like a black castrum doloris..."
Delightful irony from a man who professes to dislike irony, at least of the hipster variety. One of the best songs on the new album, too, one that I had a feeling I'd love based on the title alone-- That Black Bat Licorice. The rest of Lazaretto, though...? After being bowled over when I first listened the other night, I ripped the record for the car the next morning and went out for a drive. There's something about listening while driving that gets me deeper into music, probably because the music fills the car in a way that it doesn't fill my apartment and, in the right circumstances, there's nothing else to distract me from listening fully. And I've written before about the combination of high speed and good tunes being my favorite, most easily-accessible high. Somehow, though, I came home from that drive feeling distanced from the music. The drive to and from work the next day was the same. As a devoted addict, it scared me a bit that I might not be able to connect to this record. I felt that all of the songs were good, but I just wasn't having the visceral, emotional reaction that I normally have to Jack White's music. I wasn't getting the junkie rush I've gotten from every one of his other albums. Was it jetlag from the previous week's business trip in Las Vegas? Was it the the songs themselves not grabbing me as much with repeated listenings? Did I overreact on first listen because I'd been anticipating this record for so damned long? I dunno. But today I threw my bike on top of the car and went for a drive with Lazaretto again, heading further from home, out into more rural parts of Maryland. Past the congestion of traffic, able to flow swiftly along first the highway and then curvy backroads, the songs began to sweep me away and I was suddenly transported by them the way I'd expected to be. Would You Fight For My Love?, in particular, soared on the highway in a way that it couldn't in the distractions of heavier traffic closer to the city. That Black Bat Licorice, however, is a great rush hour tune, having inspired me the previous evening to roll down the windows and let it rattle its way out of the car at full volume as I inched along one of downtown D.C.'s main arteries.
So when I arrived at my destination, I pulled the bike off of the car and hit the trail. And damned if the songs didn't come with me. Entitlement, Alone In My Home, Fight For My Love, Black Bat, all played through my head while riding, interweaving with each other. Fight For My Love, again, turned out to be a galvanizing song to move to. When I turned around to head back after a bit over 13 miles, it began a repeated refrain in my head as I kicked into high gear, both literally and figuratively, and began flying along fast enough that I prayed more than once I wouldn't end up having to dodge any snakes or squirrels. (Rabbits are fine, they hop off the trail when they hear you coming. Squirrels, on the other hand, dash back and forth like dingbats before deciding which way to go. And snakes just lie there in the way.) Then Black Bat Licorice and Three Women began alternating and I got into a zone, keeping up the high gear, high speed pace for miles. Got back to the car with rubbery legs and a big smile on my face.
Sometimes the journeys music takes us on just don't follow the road we expect. Does this mean that I broke through my temporary disconnect with Lazaretto? I've no idea. Could be just another phase in my exploration of this record, with today's good vibe expedited by great driving conditions and a terrific bike ride. But that's fine. As the old cliché goes, after all, the journey can be more important than the destination.
So how the hell fast is a castrum doloris, anyway?