The sound of White
ROCK star Jack White is a man of many hats.
He’s a member of a bunch of bands, a music producer, a label owner, a cigarillo smoker. He’s a white- lie teller – seriously, was Meg White his wife, sister or what?
He is 36 and records only in oldfashioned analogue, never digital.
He’s best known as the bloke draped in black, red and white outfits in the punky, modern Delta- blues band the White Stripes. And here, he built a rep as a guitar god.
For the first time, White is officially on his own – the dreaded solo album. It’s a bit of a joke really. He’s been the driving force in every project he’s worked on.
Blunderbuss crackles with dazzling energy but it might not be the album fans were expecting.
If it were a rollercoaster, it would have more build- ups than scary drops towards the Earth from a terrifying height.
It still sounds familiar, unmistakably White, but where are the snarling fangs and fuzzy, punchy guitar chords?
That’s not to say these songs are bad. As if. White is a polished songwriter and the record’s focus on death and broken relationships is weird, unsettling and impressive.
Although White’s music has always had a sense of history and a foot in the past, he strives for originality and it shows on Weep Themselves to Sleep.
The song’s pianos are full of drama while the vocal delivery is completely oddball. The guitar solo is as mad as a hatter, stabbing and jumping out of the left and right speakers from different angles.
Sixteen Saltines appears early in the album and is so White- Stripes- like it’s hard to believe Meg isn’t on the scene any more.
Also on the rock front, Freedom at 21 features the album’s most obvious hooks and pays a little debt to Led Zeppelin with a solid guitar solo. For the bluesrock lovers there’s a heart- pumping cover of Little Willie John’s I’m Shakin’.
Love Interruption is a daring duet with vivid imagery, a little organ and some clarinet; the stark, revealing I Guess I Should Go to Sleep blends jazz, waltz and country styles; and then On and On and On has an Eastern tinge.
Almost relegated to the polite and beige pile is closing number Take Me With You When You Go, until the twominute mark when it is utterly transformed with a ridiculously funky, post- Prince solo from out of nowhere.
The biggest problem with this album might be expectations. Great rock ’ n’ roll is hard to come by this year and many had their sights on White to rectify that.
Although he has kept his patented guitar riffs holstered for much of Blunderbuss, it’s still a cracking album.