by Jack White
Released: 04/21/2012 | Label: Third Man Records/Columbia |
Let me start by vehemently proclaiming that I have never once in my life fallen prey to any of Jack White's output. Never liked The White Stripes, nor The Raconteurs, thought The Dead Weather insipid and an exercise in cashing in. There's no denying the man's ability– he's a decent guitar player, justified by the fact that countless other true guitar legends have collaborated with him or made shady appearances on his own material. He has a rock n roll (whiny) voice. He has the hair which seems the deciding factor on who makes it or who doesn't in so many cases (Except Michael Stipe, perhaps). His clothes are retro enough to appease the traditionalists, and yet savvy enough to temper the beating hearts of the hipster elite. He wears shoes that point heavenwards, and hats that leave just enough of his face showing to add mystery in black and white photographs. He collaborates with some true legends (The Stones, Wanda Jackson), and some not so legendary (Insane Clown Posse, and that drip in the back of your throat annoyingly grubby twat Alicia Keys).
His misadventures touring the globe with his sister-lover-wife-clone have sprouted numerous headline pages on the covers of such arse wiping mags as NME, his personal life climbed to new heights on the gossip-o-meter when he dated Renée "Cling-film" Zellweger, and at the tender age of 36 he has managed to spawn 2 children and 2 ex-wives.
Back to the music.
Blunderbuss is Jack White's first solo album. Released on his own label, Third Man Records, aided by the high flying XL Recordings/Colombia. Written, recorded, mixed and produced by Jack himself, it can definitely be regarded as a labour of love. I wouldn't call it an evolution in sound for what he has already been lauded for, more a honing of certain aspects of The White Stripes into a more broken down, cohesive mess.
"Missing Pieces" opens the whole shebang with a rather loose start. "Sixteen Saltines" is the first evidence of Jack's delight in simple riffs played fast with repetition ad nauseam. The simplicity is taken up a notch on "Freedom at 21" showcasing (I'm guessing) Carla Azar of Autolux fame bringing her Jaki Liebezeit influences to the 21st century. "Love Interruption" floats by without musical enterprise, only turning my head with the rather bizarre lyrics including sending his mum to hell, murdered by love. Ehem. "Blunderbuss" takes on a slightly more somber tone with a piano-laden facade hiding creeping pedal steel, strings and muted drums.
The piano continues on into "Hypocritical Kiss" although the overall tempo is higher, vocals doubled/tripled but still distinctively White-ian. "Weep Themselves to Sleep" changes direction, with a more labored manner of singing that almost backfires. Some moments seem as though Jack is running out of breath, but he pushes through. The true highlight of the album is the Rudy Toombs penned song "I'm Shaking", which is of such a higher calibre than anything else on the record that it stands out for all the wrong reasons. It exposes the lack of memorable riffs, hooks on an altogether mellower version of the White Stripes, and thrusts the genius of Rudy into the forefront. However, the manner in which the song is recorded, all too clean and produced to do it real justice, takes away from what could have been a highly successful cover. His pronunciation of "nervous" (neyvous) brings a slight look of bewilderment. "Trash Tongue Talker" rallies the Louisiana sounds of Professor Longhair, with a guitar bleeding in and out of the right speaker. The last 4 songs deliver melodies that you can't quite pin, but are certain you've heard before, with that instant familiarity that always warns of discovery later on.
In some ways Jack has managed to distill various genres of American music into one album, slightly tamed, too polished around the edges, but for those who can't be arsed to hunt out Geeshie Wiley, Elizabeth Cotton, Longhair, Dr John, this serves as a fairly successful tasting table of what was done a hundred times better 50 years ago. Not much of a compliment, I know, but I don't really see what this album was trying to be. When DJ's put out mix-tapes of a typical set they try and cram as many credible, obscure bands in there to startle people with their deep knowledge of the unfound and unpronounceable. This seems very much like Jack's interpretation of his own record collection, but having missed out on bringing something fresh and exciting to the table.