Thursday, September 3, 2009

It Might Get Loud

"It Might Get Loud" is a look into the styles and histories of Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge. It requires you at least have a basic knowledge of these three musicians, since it feeds off of your nostalgia. Why these three guitarists are connected is because of a meeting in January of 2008, where they talked about and played rock music. This convergence is the centerpiece of the doc. The film opens with White constructing a guitar out of a soda bottle, a piece of wood, and a string. This reflects his overall way. He's influenced by blues (especially "Grinnin' in Your Face" by Son House, which he says is his favorite song), and doesn't like to overload the effects. Although he's the youngest of the three, he's got the most traditional mindset. At one point he states in his self-satisfied, Dylanesque manner, "I never wanted to play the guitar," and until he was an apprentice at an upholsterer (where he formed a band called "The Upholsterers"), he stuck to the drums.

This couldn't be farther from U2's The Edge, who plays simple riffs and uses effects to make them majestic. He describes watching the "Top of the Pops," and how every once and a while something revolutionary came out. He was wary of his homeland of Ireland, as he experienced the bad economy and violence of the times (and was heavily shaken at that). The latter was inspirational for U2's "War." He remarks later on in the film that if he hadn't been a member of the still-running band, he wouldn't still be playing guitar. "I might be a banker," he says.

Jimmy Page, age 64 at meeting-time, is the real rocker of the group, as he mostly prefers just amplification. As a member of Led Zeppelin and the Yardbirds, he's one of the greats of classic rock. The film goes into him in less detail, although it does linger on archival footage of a live performance of "Stairway to Heaven." Going in, he was the one I had heard the least of. He doesn't give away any secrets here, as opposed to White, who composes a song onscreen. There is a little bit about his early career (a lot of gigs), and about how "When the Levees Broke" was recorded, but not a whole lot.

So you can see all the history coming into this gathering, as they talk about their inspirations and such. I guess it's mostly for the small performances they give of each other's work. There's not so much of this segment; in fact, it's only intercut sometimes. Overall, "It Might Get Loud" is an uneven documentary, with a lot of padding to get it to feature-length status. It was interesting to see into huge figures in the music industry, but I wish it could have been made a little better than it was. It is (no shock) self-indulgent, like a long solo by a guitarist that overstays its welcome. But if you want to see how guitarists roll, this is where. C+

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