Album Review: Jack White

blunderbuss (xl records)

Five years, two bands and three albums after The White Stripes' final record, Icky Thump, Jack White is back with his debut solo album, Blunderbuss. Featuring White's classic Blues/ Rock n'Roll sound, this time, it's a much more candid and personal affair.

The opener, Missing Pieces, sets the tone for the rest of the record, of which is essentially a divorce/breakup album. The track is a very literal (and witty) account, expressing his experiences of the 'give and take' nature of relationships, by detailing the protagonist (Jack, himself) waking up each morning to find another body part having gone missing until he's left helpless on the floor. The song features the brilliant but harsh lyric: "When they tell you they just can’t live without you/They ain’t lying, they’ll take pieces of you/And they’ll stand above you/And walk away.” A stark but excellent initiator for the remainder of the record.

What's quite refreshing about this album is the rotation of musicians Jack has assembled for certain tracks; one band all male and the other an all female group of Nashville-based musicians who seem to have a profound effect on the sound of the album. Whether it be the theatrical and dramatic piano part played by Brooke Waggoner on Weep Themselves To Sleep, or the smoky and sultry co-vocals of Ruby Amanfu on Love Interruption as it oozes and quivers with Southern Soul. It's clear that this album is something unique to Jack; I couldn't imagine it as a White Stripes record.

“These songs feel like they could only be presented under my own name. These songs were written from scratch, had nothing to do with anyone or anything else but my own expression, my own colours on my own canvas.”

The album's second single, Sixteen Saltines is perhaps the most aggressive, upbeat of them all, employing White's classic Blues/Rock style, much like the energy of Blue Orchid from the Stripes' 2005 album, Get Behind Me Satan. The track features Jack, exasperated, feeling the envy and jealousy of his ex and what she may be getting up to: "When I'm by myself, I think of nothing else, than if a boy just might be getting through and touching you.”

Amongst the plethora of Blues/Rock, there are some welcome surprises on the record; particularly the fantastic Freedom At 21, which sees Jack employing an almost hip-hop approach as he spits out syllables at high speed, over a looming backdrop of familiar Blues hooks and frantic percussion. The record's title track is a melancholic Waltz-like lament for White's relationship that just wasn't meant to be, while ‘Hypocritical Kiss begins with a beautiful piano cadenza not out of place in any piece of sophisticated modern Classical music, a sign that Jack is feeling less restrained in his musical potential and capabilities, especially with his new band.

Considering this is an album declaring love gone wrong, it's surprisingly easy to ignore all the pain and heartache due to the musicality and underlying wit of Blunderbuss. In his first solo effort, Jack has laid his heart on his sleeve, revealing a new depth of character. Blunderbuss is far from being just the Blues/Rock, Garage-Fuzz sound we've all grown to love; it has real substance, something viable to grab on to. I may even go so far as to say that this may be White's finest release to date.