Jack White: Blunderbuss

Released April 23, 2012 by Third Man Records

May 29th, 2012

As huge White Stripes fans, we were more than a little disappointed when the duo announced their split in 2011. We knew though that we had not heard the last of Jack White, a gifted if eccentric musician, who while achieving popular and critical success as one half of the White Stripes had been an active participant in a number of side projects. It’s odd to think that White, who has had a prolific career as both a musician and a producer, is marketing his latest effort as his debut album, but Blunderbuss is a coming out party of sorts and marks the first time White has released a record under his own moniker. Blunderbuss was written, recorded and produced by White at his Nashville compound, which, if a recent New York Times Magazine profile is to be believed, is equal parts Willy Wonka and Andy Warhol’s Factory. Blunderbuss was composed in its entirety in a single session and it shows; a sense of urgency and authenticity permeates the album.

The hard rock tracks on Blunderbuss would not seem out of place on a White Stripes album, especially the raucous “Sixteen Saltines”, and while we subconsciously expected Meg White’s clear vocals or drum beats to contribute at any moment, the majority of the record feels like a very personal endeavour for White, both musically and lyrically. The opening track, “Missing Pieces,” sets the tone for the rest of Blunderbuss and firmly establishes that this is going to be a weird and wacky journey: “I was in the shower so I could not tell my nose was bleeding/Dripped down my body to the floor right below my feet and/I looked in the mirror at my face, I thought I had a disease.” “Love Interruption,” the first single off the album, is quintessential White, with it’s pared down sound, melancholic and moody lyrics, and skittery vocals. The instrumentals and extended guitar solos are phenomenal and are an excellent showcase of White’s considerable musical prowess. “Take Me With You When You Go,” the concluding song and one of our favourites, is a genre-defying surge of raw energy and emotion; it’s a return to the roots of American rock in its purest form. The lyrics are confused, messy and bizarre as White meditates on the painful trials of life, love and loss.

We’ve always been drawn to White because of his eccentricity; he seemed more like a character Johnny Depp would play in a film than a prototypical rock-and-roll god, and his signature quirky style and penchant for twisted lyrics and unusual arrangements is palpable throughout the album. Blunderbuss is an eclectic offering and serves as a reminder of White’s diverse and wide-ranging talents; he can shift seamlessly from an up-tempo pop diddy to 1960s soul to the country bluegrass of “Blunderbluss”. It’s a testament to White that the album never feels schizophrenic, at least not in a bad way; it’s an emotionally charged work that retains the listener’s interest throughout. This album is White stripped of affect, his copious personas, and the circus-like atmosphere that he often cultivates, and he hasn’t produced a record this compelling since Elephant. For once the music eclipses the enigma of Jack White, and while his affinity for eccentricity and mind games is evident (his ex-wife Karen Elson provides backup vocals on songs detailing the implosion of their marriage) the lyrics and instrumentals remain the focus. Blunderbuss is raw, heartfelt and visceral in a way that White has never quite achieved before.

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