Jack White – Blunderbuss
As perhaps the most enigmatic and mysterious rock star of the past decade or so, Jack White is not to be trusted. He, more than any of his peers, understands the benefits of mythologising and misdirection in the world of rock and roll – creating a rock star ‘character’ that punters and critics find eminently more interesting than the boring old reality.
I say all this as his first solo album, Blunderbuss, has been touted as ‘the Jack White break-up album’, following his recent divorce from actress Karen Elson – and it certainly plays like a personal, no-holds barred reflection on his love-life. But if his career so far is anything to go by, to take Jack White at face-value is to totally misunderstand him as an artist…
Whether he’s describing the women in his life literally taking chunks out of him (’Missing Pieces’), depicting heartless femme fatales (’Freedom At 21’ – ‘Smile on her face / She does what she damn well please.”) or swearing himself off women altogether (’Love Interruption’ – ”I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me… anymore”) Jack White signposts his failed marriage and his strained relationship with Meg all over Blunderbuss. So much so that it all seems a little bit too obvious – especially when you consider White’s previous form when it comes to misdirection.
So what’s going on? Has Jack White really decided to bare his soul to all and sundry and finally let us into his world? The fact that his divorced wife and apparent cause of all this emotional outpouring pops up frequently as backing singer should answer that question for you. What he’s really doing is filling the album with the very lyrical themes we were all expecting him to – which means the inventive production and musical experimentation on Blunderbuss doesn’t sound as odd and unsettling as it could do.
It’s a neat trick which is very well executed – it’s taken me about ten listens to even begin to get a handle on exactly what’s going on. Save for the very ‘White Stripes-ey’ riff in ’Sixteen Saltines’, Blunderbuss features the outrageous production and musical influences White has been hinting at since he messed about with bagpipes on ‘Icky Thump’. Central to this experimentation is the shifting moods of the songs, which seamlessly incorporate a host of different ideas, from straight-up rock and baroque piano to vaudevillian theatre, intense ballads, orchestral strings, xylophones and loads more – sometimes all in the same song. The way he integrates all these disparate ideas into, what is for me, his most cohesive album to date is nothing short of ingenious – and the technique of masking it all with strong, personal and predictable lyrical themes makes for probably the most complete and interesting album of his career – which is not a statement I make lightly!