Advanced Review: Jack White's solo debut 'Blunderbuss'
Weirdly mysterious. If one were to describe Jack White, formerly of The White Stripes, in two words that would give a vague idea it would be that. But since we cannot exactly wrap our heads around who White is, the closest we can get to understand the man formerly behind notable 2000's two-piece garage-rock band The White Stripes (in addition to being a member of rock supergroups The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather) is listening to his debut solo album "Blunderbuss" out on Tuesday April 24.
As one seeks to decode the "mystery behind Jack White," it would not be fair to entirely judge the album in the context of The White Stripes. Of course, fans of the band that propelled White to rock fame have been (and will always) yearn for the ingenuity the minimalist garage rock band created.
One need not worry, though. White has nowhere near lost his ability to be in-your-face about whatever is on his mind nor his capability to utilize instruments to their fullest potential.
Back in January of this year, when White's first single "Love Interruption" came out, listeners were surprised to hear him come out with such a mellow song. It's easy to forget that The White Stripes had mellow songs as well (e.g. "We're Going to be Friends" off of their third album "White Blood Cells") especially when they became more famous for songs like "Seven Nation Army" off of their fourth album "Elephant."
With White having his own name to his music now, he expands not only on his mellow tendencies but also the tendencies he has showcased in his side projects as well - country, blues, soul, jazz and classic rock leanings.
The freedom to add layers to the foundation that White already had in him is essentially what "Blunderbuss" is about. Equipped with a full band complete with backup singers and no limit to what instruments were used, White displays no hesitancy in showing how he is not afraid to go in a new direction despite awareness of every expectation out there.
While the White Stripes-friendly "Sixteen Saltines" is comforting in that we are assured White hasn't strayed too far from his roots, the album becomes more compelling with the more unexpectedly less rock-type tracks.
When we listen to what White is saying, there is an honesty most do not give him credit for. In the track "Hypocritical Kiss," we find the soundtrack to a crumbling relationship in which White defends himself by saying statements such as "Who the hell is impressed by you?" Anyone with good sense would not want to get into an argument with him, despite the percussion and piano melodies blending together beautifully.
Standout track "I'm Shakin'" is a cover of American R&B singer Little Willie John's 1960 hit that one could easily mistake as a song The Black Keys would do in the first few seconds. But once White's signature distorted guitar and voice kicks in, we know for sure that this is unmistakably his own take on a classic song. White even throws in a bit of humor as he pronounces the word "nervous" as "noy-vuss."
More so, it's impressive how White takes us on a journey throughout the album. He's one of those few artists who can compose songs that shift moods without sounding indecisive. Closing track "Take Me with You When You Go" shows variety in that it goes from lounge-style music to an epic classic rock-like buildup towards the end.
The magic in it all is that we cannot comprehend how White can be brilliant enough to throw all of these elements into one solid album. And do we know him better now? Well, Blunderbuss tells us that this is just the beginning.
For a man like Jack White, that's quite all right.
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