‘Blunderbuss’, Jack White

Released 2012 on Third Man, XL Recordings and Columbia

Over the past few years, Jack White has been everywhere, branching out from the late White Stripes into the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, not to mention plenty of live cameos, but everywhere he goes, he most definitely leaves an imprint. As such, the prospect of a solo album was truly exciting: some space to make a CD that was entirely his own. And Blunderbuss does not disappoint.

Although the opening tracks are effortlessly charismatic and catchy, the album does not, at first, promise any shocking new directions for Jack White. The opening tracks are blues-tinged, strange, catchy, and the saw-like distortion on the guitar in ‘Sixteen Saltines’ sounds like ‘the Hardest Button to Button’’s hysterical older brother. However, as ‘Love Interruption’ floats in at track four, summoning up the spirit of Dusty Springfield, the album progresses into something much more interesting altogether.

Having never been one to shy away from musical experimentation, the incorporation of varied influences from Country, Soul even the shadow of Rap in ‘Freedom at 21’ and the spaciness of meditation sound-tracks in ‘On and On and On’ is not surprising in itself, but more in the way it is implemented: the album is immensely well hung-together, no track seems out of place, and the ‘experimentation’ appears in a much more mature guise. Whereas earlier efforts, such as the retro-rock of The Raconteur’s first album, those two noise tracks based on bagpipes in Icky Thump sounded pretty contrived to varying extents, this musical innovation on Blunderbuss is more developed, even if it does sacrifice the raw adventurousness of the White Stripes. Overall, the production is also much more clean-cut, even when the inevitable distortion kicks in, complementing this more considered approach.

That is not to say, however, that the album is restrained or simple: the diversity of musical styles seamlessly surge throughout the record, which is underpinned by a depth of emotion. The bruising from the musician’s recent divorce from Karen Elson broods in many of the songs – love as a concept clearly stings. When he is not painting graphic portraits of crumbling relationships, he’s swearing off the whole idea – as he sings in ‘Love Interruption’, “I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me, any more.”

Although it wouldn’t be considered groundbreaking, Jack White has really settled into a groove with Blunderbuss, honing his own style into a great record, and establishing what this reviewer hopes will be a highly fruitful solo career.

Review also published on http://www.oxideradio.co.uk

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