Review Summary: On his debut solo album we find Jack White searching for a purpose.
For all his undoubted talent as both a musician and a producer, Jack White has never been the sort of person to seek out the limelight. Notoriously shy in nature, White shirks away from interviews and as a result it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes him tick. This reclusiveness might go some way to explaining why, thirteen years after releasing his first record as part of The White Stripes, he has only just taken it upon himself to release a solo album. Another explanation might be that he just hadn’t felt the need, until his recent divorce from ex-wife Karen Elson left him with new ideas and a fresh perspective on life. Whatever the intent, Blunderbuss
is an album strewn with heartbreak, an anti-romantic ode to breakups past and future. This theme is confirmed early on, as opening track Missing Pieces
sees our host literally fall apart at the seams, before getting his payback through the irrepressible chorus of second single Sixteen Saltines
. “Who’s jealous of who"” indeed.
Despite the air of dejection in early lyrics, the immediate charm of Blunderbuss
lies in its familiarity, because for all the refinement and individuality pouring through the speakers, White rarely strays far from the trademark sound that has unified his past releases. Instead he has a fashioned a new approach to his music, acting with more valour than past releases may indicate. By liberating himself from the shadows and limitations of inferior artists, Blunderbuss
shows White explore and develop his sound more organically. Take for instance the haunting eloquence of Weep Themselves to Sleep
, and the natural breakdowns found within, as well established musical patterns suddenly collapse into a melting pot of dissonant riffs. The impact of the continuous piano melody in the background remains the only constant on a track filled with White’s distinctive eccentricity, and allows an eerie sense of recognisability remains steadfast throughout. Later on, this trait is further developed in On and on and on
through another instantly calming piano motif, this time offsetting heavy Eastern and country influences in a subtle throwback to late 60’s psychedelia.
More immediate tracks are found in the form of early duo Freedom at 21
and Love Interruption
, both of which are carried by White’s dynamic vocal talent. Calling on a full arsenal of howls, murmurs, yells, and even the occasional croon or two, the variation from track to track adds another dimension to the record, keeping it fresh through every second of its 42 minute runtime. Likewise, the ever-changing complexion of tracks contributes to this versatility, fluctuating from post-punk tinged rockers such as Sixteen Saltines
to the heady blues of Trash Tongue Talker
, adding fluidity to the album in the process. The nervous unpredictability of closer Take Me with You When You Go
perhaps highlights this best as it traverses effortlessly through multiple phases, lifting the best ideas of the preceding tracks and melding them together into a justly satisfying conclusion.
Though calling Blunderbuss
a flawless record would be an overstatement, it is clear that both the diversity and inherent quality throughout make for a considerably pleasant listen. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Jack White has taken his experiences of a failed romance and combined them with his charismatic personality to produce a collection of music simultaneously fragile yet dripping in a sultry swagger. It’s too early to tell what can be learned from such a record, but if Mr White continues his soul searching a bit longer, an opus may soon be on the cards.
Overall 3.5 Great