Jack White – Blunderbuss (XL Recordings)
April 26, 2012 by Edward Clibbens
As you should well know by now, ‘Blunderbuss’ is Jack White’s debut solo album. A solo album for Jack White is an odd notion, as his influence has evidently been the driving force behind all of his previous outings. Be it The White Stripes, The Raconteurs or The Dead Weather. The major difference this time is that he’s the only lead vocalist and there isn’t a ‘The’. Bearing this in mind, if you like his previous work, you will love this. And if for some unfathomable reason, you don’t like Jack White, then you probably enough won’t love it.
All this being said, this is by no means a case of White simply recycling the formula of what has worked before. On the whole, the mammoth riffs are gone and the trademark guitar histrionics are, relatively speaking, reigned in. At the fore of this album are White’s instantly recognizable vocals, whilst the lyrics are more prominent and personal than ever before. Opening track ‘Missing Pieces’ perfectly embodies this new approach. It’s opening glitchy organ line followed by a shuffling drum beat, although reminiscent of ‘Get Behind Me Satan’ era White Stripes, sets the pared down tone of the album. At no point does a huge riff emerge and the solo is by his standards, tame. However, don’t expect to discover a radical reincarnation when you listen to ‘Blunderbuss’. This isn’t his ‘Kid A’, this is still unmistakably Jack White. Despite the instantly recognizable nature of his work, he is one of the few artists capable of making every release sound entirely fresh, unlike say, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Just take the first single from the album ‘Love Interruption’. His vocal style fits just as perfectly with a minimal acoustic guitar and clarinet backing is it does with balls out garage-blues.
Current single ‘Sixteen Saltines’ is as close as the album gets to a White Stripes track per se. The trademark riff and frantic vocal sounds like a blend of all the Stripes’ albums. It’s comfortably one of the best tracks released this year. However, testament to White, you don’t find yourself longing for more classic White Stripes esque material. Album standout moment ‘Weep Themselves To Sleep’ is an eccentric mix of spiralling piano, funky drums and a classic stuttering guitar solo (don’t expect any ‘Ball And A Biscuit’ guitar work though). It’s also made crystal clear that his heart still lies firmly with the blues, and just that hint of country he’s always had a sly penchant for. Little Willie John cover ‘I’m Shakin’’ oozes an infectious groove that you wouldn’t normally expect from White. It’s a fantastic modern twist on 1950s blues.
Lyrically, the album is a collection of twisted love songs, with the obvious inspiration being White’s divorce from Karen Elson last year. However, as is his way, none of the lyrics are that obvious. After all, where would be the fun in that? On ‘I Guess I Should Go To Sleep’, the mood of the album is perfectly summed up with White crooning ‘it’s too hard standing on my own two feet, been running too long on an endless street, well I guess I should go to sleep.’ It’s an album by a man longing for companionship. However it’s not just any album, by any man. It’s is an utterly brilliant album by arguably the most utterly brilliant musician that the 21st century has graced us with thus far. ‘Take Me With You When You Go’ brings the album to a fitting end. Combining all the elements of the album to a suitably weird climax. Complete with fiddle, momentary massive riff and off and on guitar solo. What more could you want? Maybe just one outrageous solo, but that’s probably just me.
Essentially, what we have here is comfortably one of the year’s best albums. An unsurprisingly brilliant effort from a man who, as of yet, hasn’t made a bad record; and if this is anything to go by, he won’t be releasing one any time soon either. Regardless of the overused cliché it’s become, Jack White is a ‘genius’.