It’s fair to say that Jack White has had quite the career. Whether he’s jamming with Jimmy Page and The Edge for the film It Might Get Loud, recording the theme for a Bond movie with hip-hop starlet Alicia Keys or jumping behind the kit with The Dead Weather, his erratic career moves have made him one of the music industry’s least predictable characters. Continuing in this theme of eccentricity is his long awaited debut release, Blunderbuss which is an unusual mix to say the least.
From the Rolling Stones-esque feel of Missing Pieces to the country folk style of tracks like Blunderbuss, it’s an album that, like White himself, is notoriously difficult to put a stamp on. Perhaps more surprising is the appearance of crafted melodic piano arrangements in tracks such as Hypocritical Kiss and Trash Tongue Talker that could make Jools Holland grin like a Cheshire Cat.
If you dig below the technically impressive instrumental arrangements you realise they conceal the harrowing emotional depth of his lyrics. This emotional floodgate opens in the anti-love songLove Interruption where White confesses that “I want love to turn me over slowly/ stick a knife inside me and twist it all around” as he reflects on his recent divorce. However, in Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy he puts the shoe on the other foot, whimsically taunting ‘you’ll be watching me girl, takin’ over the world’.
For the most part, his signature blend of alternative garage rock with southern blues influences takes a back seat, making a welcome return in the cacophony of grungy overdrive that is Sixteen Saltines which features a raucous energy and raunch reminiscent of his Raconteurs years.
Blunderbuss is an interesting aural experience. It’s not quite a far cry from his previous material but by no means is it just more of the same – here, White wears both his influences and his heart on his sleeve. The sheer bipolarity and contrast of the album is an evaluation of White as a musician. His mind meanders on, with no set destination. Yes, he’s had quite the musical odyssey so far – But his solo career has the potential to be an even more interesting journey.