The sound of White

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Eguide Music - JAR­RAD BE­VAN

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.

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