Lazaretto XL For his follow-up to the rollicking Blunderbuss, Jack White went for “a potluck of sounds”, from garage rock to rockabilly to bad-ass country rock. In other hands, this would be an ambitious mess of hard-hitting Americana. But White is arguably the most singularly talented musician of his generation – a mouthy, opinionated punk, maybe, but also an artist with a real aesthetic option.
There’s passion aplenty on Lazaretto, along with the odd wigout and some midlife-crisis-style lyrics, making the album a wonderfully layered work. But it’s the speed and dexterity of White’s execution that impresses most.
The opener, Three Women, about “a red, a blonde and a brunette”, is supercharged blues that ups the tempo nicely and finds White in good vocal form. The title track is a bass-driven hard rock affair that will prove to be a live highlight.
Appalachian sounds clash with boogie-woogie and blues-rock to really make the tracks soar. But White is at his best when he delves into country idioms. He injects some adrenaline into the genre with Temporary Ground and Entitlement, and there’s a sweetness to the sounds that contrasts well with the melodic bang and clatter found elsewhere.
On the stand-out track, Just One Drink. White sounds like Gram Parsons fronting The Rolling Stones. It’s bar-room blues with go-faster stripes and one of the best things he has ever done. Would You Fight For My Love is probably the most autobiographical track: “It’s not enough that I love you/There’s all these things I have to prove over to you” White sings over a beguiling piece of music.
Guitars screech and vocals yelp all over the shop as he lashes out at targets, settles scores and even allows in some violin solos. At times White struggles to hold all the musical stylings together, but what gets him through is his obvious relish for this material.
Lazaretto is quite clearly an album of the year contender and bound to find favour with recovering White Stripes fans. It’s a 100metre sprint of punk, blues, garage and country, with enough va-vava-voom to leave the opposition in the blocks. Download: Lazaretto, Just One Drink, Entitlement, Temporary Ground