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Brian Till
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It Gets Loud


It begins modestly enough, with Jack White, a famed if not infamously gritty rocker, rigging together a piece of wood, a classic Coca-Cola bottle and a metal wire, while standing alongside a Tennessee porch, a cigarette jammed between his lips. Soon, there is a taut line and an amplifier's attached, and the familiar sound of a screaming guitar wails across.

"Who says you need to buy a guitar?" the almost Amish-looking post-punk legend offers incredulously as the sound fades.

As the cinematic awards season picks up, let me direct you toward something you likely haven't heard of, but certainly should have. "It Might Get Loud" stands as one of the best films I've seen in the last several years.

It's a rock documentary and, in addition to White, it stars Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and U2's The Edge. Unlike most rock docs, it is not based on a specific tour, or even a single band, but rather on the history and art of guitarmanship.

It's about the evolution of the craft and the personal narratives of three of its most iconic apprentices. The film comes from filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, best known for directing Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth." Trust that anyone capable of making our former vice president and a PowerPoint presentation into an Oscar-winning film will have substantial material to work with given three rock stars and a plethora of their time.

The story of each, their first guitars and the works that inspired their respective provocations in the genre are woven together nearly seamlessly and culminate with the three playing together on a Los Angeles sound stage. With seven cameras rolling, overcharged amps, and a small stage that feels like a living room stripped from the '70s, the three sit in a circle, their guitars and a small table between them.

"Loud" is a marvelous success for perhaps the same reason that made "An Inconvenient Truth" sensational: its ability to make its source material accessible.

It takes a complex matter and allows us, the laymen, to peer inside, without the study of music or science that should be requisite.

It allows Jimmy Page, playing Link Wray's Rumble in presumably his own living room, to take your hand and say, "Listen here, this part right here, this is what made me love rock 'n' roll."

Page comes across as an older statesman, a man keen to dark dress coats and town cars despite the long rocker hair that remains, albeit now in a shimmery grey. He looks as comfortable nibbling the crook of his reading glasses as he does with a Les Paul in his hands. Indeed, he could easily be confused for a Harvard fellow or Oxford Don.

The Edge comes across as the most political of the three, trying the advent of U2's sound and message to the politics of Ireland and the angst of an economically suffocated Dublin.

Jack White has, without question, the most dynamic of the personal vignettes. Accompanied at almost all points by a young boy dressed in clothes that match his own — vest, bowler hat, black shirt and tie — he offers the portrait of an artist still consumed by the either the image he's created for himself or a genuine contempt for anything societal. Either way, the rage and intensity of his music and personality are palpable enough to capture the attention of any viewer. His musical credentials and reverence for the blues, regardless of what you make of the persona, come across as unassailable.

It gets loud. And it's certainly worth 97 minutes of your life. Perhaps even 194 of them.

Brian Till, one of the nation's youngest syndicated columnists, is a research fellow for the New America Foundation, a think tank in Washington. He can be contacted at To find out more about the author and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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