June 24, 2012

Jack White is a curious fellow; precisely the kind of fellow I wasn’t surprised to hear used to scribble poetry into the corners of the furniture he used to sell, thereby getting into trouble for this charming behavior. Similarly, Jack’s been putting his signature on the good ol’ dirty blues for quite some time now—from his White Stripes garage band days of sweaty, simplistic, and splendid tunes, to his ensemble Raconteurs sideproject that transformed the genre into some kind of strange yet wonderful amalgam of conventional rock and forgotten lore. More recently, he had joined The Dead Weather, somehow further distancing himself from both of those established sounds and alienating himself from his trusty guitars and pianos. It’s sort of like how Bowie tried to get on with calling himself merely a “piece of the puzzle” in Tin Machine—you can’t fool us, Jack; we know you’re the main attraction. So lo and behold, after all of these groups dissolved and he was left standing, Jack decided to get back to his roots and create his first solo album, returning to the basics of what made him Jack White. But, here’s the thing with Blunderbuss: an album with just Jack White’s sentimentality and no filter of “dirty Detroit rock” or “Raconteur neo-blues ensemble” is pretty much a bare-bones affair.

I love Jack White; let’s get that out of the way. I think he’s a dynamite guitar player and his predilection towards DIY aesthetics is great in world full of power-punk garbage. Lyrically, he’s not that great; anyone who’s heard “The Hardest Button To Button” or “It’s True That We Love One Another” can attest to how wonky his songwriting can be. Jack excels at minimalism, but it helps if he has a partner in crime to reel him in. Vocally, the dude is dirty as hell, but he’s got a trademark howl that’s pretty great and I’ve come to admire. So why don’t I like Blunderbuss?

Blunderbuss is an Album; it is a music Album with Songs on it. I listened to it and decided, “this sure is an Album with Music on it. This sure is Music.” What I mean to say is this: Jack White hasn’t created an awful album, but I don’t think his solo effort is quite as memorable as anything else he’s done. Many of the songs take on a very plodding, serenading pace, and rarely will you here a guitar break through—probably one of the biggest mistakes was cutting his strings out of many songs. This is a Piano album with Jack White for sure, which is still by all means a better album than most…but I can’t say I remember many songs on it. It just made me miss The White Stripes more. I felt like listening to Icky Thump again, the genesis of White’s creativity. See, with Icky Thump, we were given evidence of two things: One, White was rapidly moving past the simple 2-instrument deal and was beginning to incorporate horns, clavicles, and bagpipes; still keeping the dirty souf sound and the rapidfire wallbanger structures, though. Two: we all knew that White was ready to pack it up because he was ready to evolve. However, the structure of Blunderbuss seems a bit meandering; almost as though White doesn’t quite know where to go on his own. The one irony here is that the songwriting, of all things, is the best its ever been—but there are very little quakes and tremors felt by way of the instruments or Jack’s erstwhile style.

Blunderbuss is a good album, but it’s also makes me miss Jack’s collaboration days, when he could still be in the forefront of a “thing” and his relevance could be supported by one or two or three other people. Much like how Ric Ocasek (another fantastic songwriter and singer) isn’t quite as good on his own as he is with the rest of The Cars, Jack should probably seek out to do another Raconteurs album (which is, in all honesty, Stripes 2.0).

In conclusion: Jack White has created something neither here nor there. It exists in a zone of negative energy where anger and happiness don’t teleport into my head easily. Jack White’s new musical project elicits only feelings of normalcy and realization that I am not imploding or even swelling up into darkness. I would rate Jack White’s new solo album with a solid ‘Yes’ out of ‘No’ which is to say, you will feel the same when you take it out as when you put it in to your stereo. It is my hope that Jack White continues to Make Music or maybe not. I can’t say because right now my brain struggles to recall if I even listened to his initial album at all. So, good job, Jack White, you certainly are able to put music on a CD and I certainly can use this CD like a human being and hear the sounds you have made. At least, I think I did.

Rating: One content and puzzled smile out of One


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