Saturday, May 26, 2012

Jack White and the search for the perfect sound

Jack White is an elusive creature. In his time with THE WHITE STRIPES his single handedly revived rock music by combing through it's history and repackaging it for the youth masses. He has written modern anthems that are now played at football games. Then he went into savant producer mode and dabbled with side project after side project. All his fans wanted was the great solo record he was always meant to make. Like PRINCE before him, White has excelled at frustrating his fans with glimpses into his limitless creativity. Unlike that other auteur, White has decided to be coy rather than flood the market with every musical thought he has ever had.

So here comes "Blunderbuss", White's proper solo debut. From the opening organ lines of "Missing Pieces", it is clear that ole' Jack means business. His distinctive howl is in fine form on this and the second track "Sixteen Saltines". These are also the closest to traditional White Stripes songs you get on the record. White is not about to recycle his older ideas. This is a record with feet in both the blues and country. There are also hints at Elvis style rockabilly, gospel and folk for good measure. The clashing drum cadence of "Freedom at 21" meshes well with the tale of a rebellious young lady striking out on her own. "Love Interruption" is the highlight of the set, with is plaintive back and forth duet as White at ex-wife Karen Elston recall what they would do for love and what they wanted love to do for them, but ultimately couldn't.

If I have a fault with the record it's that it jumps around stylistically so much that it at times feels disjointed. It's as if White has had all these sounds collected just waiting around to be released from their purgatory. His skill as a multi-instrumentalist is also something of a undoing to a collective theme of sound. The back half of the album evokes the images of a piano playing saloon singer content to play whatever people shout out at request. Say what you want about the album, it's not boring. Each listen gives you new insight into White and his genius.