Jack White storms back with new album
With “Blunderbuss,” Jack White’s first solo album, White has released a collection of songs that, not only show his skills as a musician and songwriter, but also captures who he is as an artist.
But by trying to show everything he does well, he loses focus on what he does best.
What he does best is writing emotionally honest songs that are informed by his blues, country and folk influences.
By using these traditions, White can write songs that are somehow both intricate and simple.
He can write songs that intelligently capture emotions – songs that focus on those emotions in a personal way. He can write songs that are unique to only him.
None of the songs on “Blunderbuss” are bad. All of the guitars, vocals and pianos capture the feeling and swagger that is White’s musicianship.
It will be immediately familiar to fans of The White Stripes or any of the other bands White has been a member of.
The hard rock songs on the album, like the lead single “Sixteen Saltines” or “Freedom at 21,” rock with a feel that White is very good at capturing.
Yet these songs don’t have the depth of White’s best work. He sings these songs in a weird high-pitched, processed voice that is distant.
The high production and perfect mixing on these songs somehow take away from the punch his older work had. These songs just don’t have the high energy of the similar songs he did with The White Stripes. It’s something that’s been missing from his songs since The White Stripes.
It sounds similar to other rock songs with similar influences, and lacks the originality he is capable of.
It is moments when White focuses on his voice and the emotions of his songs, when he is being emotionally honest, that are the best on the album.
On “Love Interruption” White sings with Ruby Amanfu a simple song about the intensity of love. Gone are the weird vocals, or ambitious song structure of the other songs on the album. It’s just White and Amanfu doing what Jack White does at his best, playing his deceptively simple songs with a passion. Such moments are too rare. In fact the only other song that is similar and comes close to capturing something similar this is the title track.
That is not to say those more complicated songs are bad. In fact, the high point of the album is the song “On and On and On” a song that has that ambition. It captures the emotion of songs like “Love Interruption” while having the ups and downs and impact that only more complicated songs can have.
Others that come close to the same quality are “Take Me With You When You Go” and “Weep Themselves to Sleep”.
These songs are similarly ambitious and similarly impactful. These three songs are interesting to listen to and will become fan favorites.
Of the three though only “On and On and On” comes close to capturing the greatness of his best work.
The two songs “I Guess I Should Go to Sleep” and “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” are both songs that tell stories that are super fun to listen to, they both wisely leave those silly effects off of White’s voice.
“Poor Boy” in particular has a fun bounce that is another highlight.
There are no real low moments on “Blunderbuss.”
There are a variety of songs that are done well.
The album gives something that most rock fans will at least like but Jack White seems to be trading in the greatness of his music for that mass appeal.
He needs to refocus on what makes his music great and get back to his beautifully simple music.