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Monday, April 30, 2012

Jack White

Blunderbuss (Columbia/Third Man)

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Beginning with a penetrating progression that rapidly explodes into choral dexterity and poetic narrative unequalled in rock music today, "Missing Pieces" opens Jack White's first solo album, Blunderbuss.  The song is brief.  The impact is not.

This remarkable album—released on vinyl and compact disc; with the vinyl LP comes a code for a free download of the album—quickly goes through the first two tracks and then gains momentum, still with fairly short songs, into 13 songs as a solo album with which to reckon.

White's first true solo outing away from his bands (White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather) is the future of rock'n'roll music.  Didn't Jon Landau famously say that about a young Bruce Springsteen?  Well, the reference holds here about another musical force that carries all that we should retain from the past into what the present has to be—and then, beyond.  Within rock history, Blunderbuss is of the same magnitude as Springsteen's Born To Run:  it creates a new pathway for artists who write for their generation and play guitar like an apocalyptic, sonic angel with hellhounds on their trails.  We have a new sound and a newer level of comparison.  Jack White's vocals are at their best here, punching a dagger into romance and slicing up anger as though it could be heard as love.

In "Weep Themselves To Sleep" White's guitar comes down as though a liquid hunk of granite, with precision that is able to fill all open spaces within the composition.  For all of the brilliant accompanying musicians on this album, it is, in the end, his vocals and guitar playing that carry Blunderbuss.

There is one interpretive number on the album, "I'm Shakin" recorded by Little Willie John.  But the 1960, original version receives an update that is pure White.  It's a wise move to put this R&B classic on an otherwise original collection of Jack White compositions.  We can better hear how devastatingly attractive Jack White's musical attack can be as it envelopes all that is nearby.  "No one can blow the shows/Or throw the bones/That break your nose/Like I can" White sings on an album whose title poetically retrieves the name of an early form of the shotgun or flintlock muzzleloader that was capable of annihilating everything in its widespread path.

Blunderbuss
becomes more enchanting and alluring the more one listens.  It lustfully provides no insight into the artist behind the narrative except that he is lyrically armed and after you with spread shot music that is on target.  This singer is dangerous.  He is unlike all that other stuff from 2012.  Blunderbuss' ultimate achievement is that is goes by so fast, it stays forever.  "Take Me With You When You Go" is the final track and it does when we do.