Review Summary: Of course it can't touch The White Stripes, but this is amazing because it shows just how strong of a role Jack himself was in making The White Stripes as amazing as they where to begin with.
Jack White has always been known for being one of the top most ambitiously talented guitarists of the 21st Century, in that he has the integrity to make him playing interesting, and the skill to back up his ideas. Though up until this point, the only work he has been associated with outside of The White Stripes has been in the forms of bands such as The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs, in a sense, applying his distinguished talents and widely recognized trademark styles to musical outlets as opposed to making an attempt to stand on his own.
So the question that has resonated among fans in news of this solo efforts conception is what is Jack going to decide the do on this album sound wise? What’s very important about this album is what Jack thankfully decides not to do. Jack wisely does not trip into the typical pitfalls of solo releases by avoiding making the common mistakes to come with the solo debut. Mistakes that have definitely been a concern of him making in wake of his recent divorce and the separation of The White Stripes along with it.
Mistakes that would be made out of anger, such as trying to make a solo album for the purpose of proving to audiences that he was above The White Stripes, and that he didn’t need that band, and that he was the driving force behind it, and could top any White Stripes release any day only with what he brought to the table in those years. And again, thankfully Jack does not pull an Axel Rose in this situation. This is mainly because Jack White isn’t the type of person who would let something like an ego dominate him, and have an ego-trip fuel a solo album, something that leads most artists to a self-centered drain.
White Stripes fans need not be worried, as the focus or purpose of this album isn’t a revenge stab at The White Stripes or his ex-wife and ex-musical partner (and if it was ever intended to be than it’s anything but prominent). With Blunderbuss, Jack White isn’t trying to prove anything because he is extremely confident in his ability and integrity, and knows he doesn’t need to. All he cares about is making great music, and it really shows on this album.
In every other project he’s been involved in, Jack has poured himself into his role and established a uniquely stylistic personality that is prevalent throughout these projects and instantly recognizable as him, and even if one is not familiar with who he is, it’s unlike much else, and Jack delivers just that on Blunderbuss. His punky garage wails of his guitar under his crooning pitch that is enough to resurrect blues from the dead is all here and in tact stressing that he embodies this trademark sound as opposed to simply staying true to successful methods.
But to make things fresh and different here, Jack needs to, like in all other projects, take this sound he embodies and surround it with the appropriate new fashion he feels like trying to give the album foundation and separate it from the other work he’s done. Fans obviously know who Jack is and get the general idea of his sound, so for this is needed for this album to stand strong and own it’s own and not seem unnecessary.
Jack interestingly goes for a bit of an adult contemporary atmosphere to surround Blunderbuss in, (a move similarly taken by Chris Cornell of Grunge rockers Soundgarden for his solo releases) which appropriately fits the topics addressed in the lyrics on this album, that are consistently about love gone bad, but are vague and specific enough that it’s relatable in a general sense and no one is forced to have no other choice than to assume it’s target is Meg White.
The White Stripes were special and had an acclaimed sound because of its simplicity, and atmosphere doesn’t generally come to mind when thinking about simplicity, but a slightly pop rock like atmosphere isn’t the vast and soaring sound-scapes generally thought of when atmosphere is mentioned, so this form of atmosphere is just enough to retain Jack’s garage rock sound, but also make this album distinctly different from his other music, and give it a crisply visceral modern attractiveness to it as well.
The only considerable flaw if any, is that because Jack brings to this album what he brought to his half of 50/50 duo partnership of The White Stripes, it can’t really be helped but to miss Meg here. At the core Jack is doing everything he did in The White Stripes and that’s not a problem at all because of how good it sounds, but her bashing away was such a nice compliment in combination with his guitar screeches, as much as he was a compliment to her.
Of course this comparison wouldn’t be a constant reminder while listening to this album if Jack had attempted a new sound that was barely like The White Stripes, and it’s not that he should have done that instead, but it seems like an inevitability that this feels like it’s missing the other half when Jack keeps at his half. Also when these two halves came together and where blended together to make something ultimately unique, Jack’s half without this does not come close to what The White Stripes were, not that he was attempting to do that, but with a similarity in sound, the better artist is obvious.
At the end of the day, this is a persistently fluent, well-rounded, and satisfyingly solid solo debut from someone with a veteran’s level of experience and talented in the field of music, and uses all he has gained well, and does not let this release go irrelevant or not needed. Jack keeps himself and his established sound without it sounding overused or old, because he shows listeners that they’re going to receive the same Jack they’ve come to know and love, and that same Jack they know and love is someone that knows how to keep himself as a force to be reckoned with.