Jack White’s debut album as a solo artist comes bearing the pressure of a heap of expectation from fans of his three other bands (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs (Saboteurs in Australia) and The Dead Weather. Devotees of White who have followed him through all of his groups will proclaim this to be the best album of the year and will not acknowledge any weakness in it. Committed opponents of White will still find a lot to hate in this album as it does build upon the foundation of his work with other groups, particularly The Raconteurs and mid-career White Stripes.
Jack White: Blunderbuss
This album needs a few listens to truly reveal its worth. It takes a couple of listens to remind yourself this will not be a White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather album, not helped by the particularly strong White Stripes vibe that is present at the start of Blunderbuss. It starts off particularly strongly with Missing Pieces kicks the album off as though no time has passed since Destijl came out and Sixteen Saltines delivering some weight to the album with a Get Behind Me Satan style driving energy.
The most obvious difference between the tracks here and White’s other work is that his vocals are more exposed here than ever before. Tracks like Hypocritical Kiss and Blunderbuss are particularly effective in their showcasing of White’s distinctive voice and absurdly affecting lyrics and stand out as some of the few tracks on this album that don’t sound like they could have been improved with input from one of White’s other bands-this does not mean they stand out as better tracks, however. Weep Themselves to Sleep in particular gives the impression by the end of it that White himself has tired of being the only contributor to the song. It’s meanderingly bland piano cannot do anything to support White’s flat vocals and makes the whole song sound repetitive and boring, something not seen much before in his work. Fortunately, the next track “I’m Shaking” shakes the album up and revives White from his lull, taking him back to his blues roots, an area that he clearly enjoys and one that should have been explored more on his first solo album.
One of the most invigorating tracks on the album is the closer: A charming synth-based ballad that transforms midway into a funk-oriented blues rocker, Take me with you when you go showcases White’s ability across different genres and reminds the listener of what he is capable of with a guitar and of the distinctive atmosphere he can achieve with his vocal interplay. Hopefully this is an indication of where White’s next project will take him because funk music is obviously an area he is capable of exploring and one that could give much back to him and his listeners.