Saturday, 28 April 2012

Jack White - Blunderbuss

Love him or loathe him, it's nigh on impossible to deny that Detroit's shining beacon Jack White has exerted more influence than pretty much anyone over modern rock music. From his most recognisable work with The White Stripes, to super-group style band projects The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who was entirely unfamiliar with his work, even if some only perk up to the infamous bass line on 'Seven Nation Army'. In fact, with all these projects on the go over recent years and a record label to run, it's mightily impressive Jack White found the time to record his own solo album, yet alone tour it with two different backing bands (one comprised entirely of men, the other of women).

Luckily though, despite his hectic schedule, Jack has crafted yet another joyously freeform and innovative collection of songs. In many ways, Blunderbuss effectively skips the the last few years and transports the listener way back to the time of The White Stripes in their prime. The guitars are lashing yet wholly accessible, and Jack's delivery is strikingly impassioned, even without the accompanying drum thuds from Meg. The more upbeat songs like the blues style rough-around-the-edges romp 'Sixteen Saltines' and the defiant 'Freedom At 21' showcase Jack's drive and phenomenally rousing guitar capabilities (as if they needed proving) expertly. Comparisons to these sort of songs can certainly be drawn to White Stripes albums such as their self titled lo-fi debut, or their more streamline embrace of noise 'White Blood Cells'. But what is remarkable, is that these songs that would have been so at home all those years ago, feel just as relevant and exciting in 2012 than 'Fell In Love With A Girl' did in 2002. 

The thrills of Blunderbuss don't just come in the short, sharp, quick fix mould. Many of this albums' true treasures lie in the more restrained tracks such as in 'Love Interruption' and 'Hypocritical Kiss'. Restrained in the instrumental sense anyway, with 'Love Interruption's fiery refrain "I want love to roll me over slowly, stick a knife inside me, and twist it all around". It's gloriously entertaining to listen to White's emotional exaggerations yet also strangely relatable.

There's also more straight up, simple bluesy style songs like 'I Guess I Should Go To Sleep'; obligatory for basically any Jack White release. These kind of songs working towards bringing more fun to the record (not that there's any lack of it). The whole album is almost like Jack is bragging, or celebrating everything that makes him so great as a musician. His guitar playing is on point, twisting and turning when necessary, and sometimes replaced with more subtle piano for more of an emotional impact. The songcraft is entirely in his hands and is shaped accordingly to force the listener to feel what Jack wants you to feel, or listen to what he has to say, or just straight up dance and have a good time on songs like 'I'm Shakin' or 'Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy'. (Warning: neither of those songs will leave your head after a couple of listens)

This is the most exciting Jack White has been in years, and should prove just resolution for pining White Stripes fans begging for a reunion, and will appease those left cold by Jack's numerous side projects and less than thrilling late White Stripes records.

Jack of all trades, master of all of them.


Toby McCarron

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