Sunday, May 20, 2012

The second coming of Jack White

album review

The man behind bands such as The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, Jack White is back with his first full-fledged solo album. Instep lends an ear

He has helmed three commercially successful and critically acclaimed bands, contributed songs to films including Cold Mountain (in which he also displayed his acting skills) and Quantum of Solace, collaborated with a slew of artists, and even produced music for the likes of Loretta Lynn. Be it rock, country, or the blues, Jack White has left a very distinct imprint on every project he has touched. His sound is distinctly his own, so the fact that Blunderbuss is his debut solo album doesn't mean he has yet to establish his identity; this might be the first time he's venturing solo, but we already know exactly who he is musically and what to expect from him.

Comprised of 13 tracks, Blunderbuss sees the artist take full creative control of the project. The set was produced by Jack White and recorded at his own Third Man Studio, and the material was largely written and composed by the musician himself. There are shades of his past work throughout the album, but this isn't The White Stripes or The Raconteurs or The Dead Weather. It is, however, unmistakably Jack White, and based on his track record, that can't really be a bad thing.

The album's sound is rooted in blues rock, and it effortlessly takes detours through the various territories he has already covered with his many ventures. Second single 'Sixteen Saltines' brings The Stripes' 'Blue Orchid' to mind, and would have easily been at home on a White Stripes album. The title track, 'Blunderbuss', emanates a country vibe, while shades of hip-hop surface on 'Freedom At 21'. The playful tune of 'Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy' is simply too charming to resist; a cover of Little Willie John's 'I'm Shakin'’ brings the 1960 hit to a new audience; and 'Weep Themselves to Sleep' effectively couples its piano-driven assault with White's characteristic drum and guitar strokes.

Lyrically, Blunderbuss often delivers a punch; the songs are pensive, brooding, and at times turbulent, but you can hardly blame Jack White's words for being vehement after the kind of year he's just had. 2011 saw him parting ways with Meg White marking the end of The White Stripes, and also saw the end of his marriage to model Karen Elson (who does, however, provide backing vocals to three tracks on Blunderbuss; in fact, female backing vocals are present on a number of songs, including lead single 'Love Interruption' to which Ruby Amanfu lends her smoky voice). So the album's dark take on love and relationships is only too understandable.

Jack White's work has always been quirky and interesting, and Blunderbuss is no exception. The musician has undeniably made an impact on the world of music over the last 15 years, and Blunderbuss is an extension to everything he's done before. At first listen it might seem a little scattered, but as you become better acquainted with the material the songs start to feel more intimate and compelling. The record revels in its familiarity instead of being burdened by it, and gives White the chance to explore the dynamics of his music and do so on his own terms. In short, Blunderbuss is a solid record that is both fascinating and eccentric, just like the musician who created it.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 20th May, 2012

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