Jack White blazes his own trail on 'Blunderbuss'
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
When I get a new album, the first place I typically go after popping it on is to the record’s booklet or card to read the credits. It’s a habit that started at childhood, and one that likely won’t cease.
With the record in question, there was a bit more curiosity in this practice than usual. Where a Jack White production typically has a limited cast — Meg on drums, or the other three Raconteurs, for example — there is a decent cast lending their collective talents to Blunderbuss, White’s first solo album and the first since the public dissolution of the White Stripes.
Some of the names were familiar, some not, but after a few listens, it’s obvious that it’s secondary information. The musicians here were picked to carry out White’s vision of where his music should go under his own name. So, on his first real project since the Dead Weather’s Sea of Cowards, and his first full album of songs since the last White Stripes record in 2007, Blunderbuss is refreshing in its weirdness, maturity and unbendinging fearlessness.
Anything less would have been a disappointment, of course. But Jack White hasn’t been in the disappointment business since that first fuzzed amp blast of the White Stripes. This record was to be as much a statement and dictum on White the musician as anything he’s done. He’s apart from the safe haven of a band or collective, and the music presented is honest, raw and restless.
Whichever version of White is preferred — the frantic punk, the rootsy cowboy or the gothic demon — is represented in one way or another. He’s plaintive and textured on the title track, letting the emotions stir in the mixture of lyrics and strings. The boogie of Nashville is present on “Trash Tongue Talker,” with its Sun-style piano propelling an old-time rock and roller.
White spits and riffs on “Sixteen Saltines” in a way that calls back to the Stripes’ Elephant, but it never sounds redundant or feels like road most travelled. In the same way that the Rolling Stones sounded so confident on tracks like “Rip This Joint” on Exile on Main St., then 10 albums into their lengthy career, this is territory that White can proudly tread, whipping out the axe and letting the song pierce from his fingers and throat through the mic.
His greatest trick, beyond the guitar freakouts and funky layers of sound, has always been the way he can bury messages and couplets within the songs, where deeper meaning reveals itself after multiple listens. Take the leadoff single, “Love Interruption,” which is driven by it’s seemingly simple refrain, not wanting love to “corrupt, disrupt or interrupt me.” It’s deceptively simple, incredibly catchy and carries the weight of all of White’s personal troubles from the past few years. Again, it takes a certain amount of confidence to let so much ride on an arrangement so perfectly sparse.
Not to say that White has ever been short on confidence. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and bravado to have pulled off the sound and aesthetic of the White Stripes, and to then start the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather simultaneously, maintaining distinct styles and attitudes in all three bands.
Here, there is no cover or mask to shroud the project. Beyond the credits and the cast, all that’s left is White. And if ever there was proof that the man is a master, here it is.
E-mail Nick Tavares at firstname.lastname@example.org