Music Review: Jack White’s “Blunderbuss”

The big question I had while listening to Blunderbuss, Jack White’s first solo album, was essentially “why should I care about Jack White anymore?” I think this has been the general mainstream consensus about Jack White for a few years now: he’s talented and has made great music in the past, but he seems to have been floundering for a while, releasing a bunch of useless side-project material (Insane Clown Posse, anyone?), giving bizarrely self-aggrandizing interviews, and just generally messing around without much result. In the wake of his momentous material with drummer/ex-wife Meg White as The White Stripes, a bunch of garage-rock revivalists have moved in to take his place, some of them easing their way into the mainstream consciousness (e.g. The Black Keys). Where does Jack White, musical misfit extraordinaire, fit into all of this?

Jack White's "Blunderbuss" comes out April 24th via Third Man Records

Jack White is a smart guy and probably had already considered all of this when he decided to write and release Blunderbuss. I say this because, in classic Jack White fashion, the album seems to evade any notions of “The Big Comeback Album” or “The Artistic Reinvention” that the pre-release buzz has pushed onto it. It is, simply put, a good album. It is not a great one or an unexpected one–it’s just a good one. This is perhaps the best move Jack White could have made, because it happily confirms that he is still a good songwriter and instrumentalist and producer without ever adding any unnecessary bloat to the already-bloated discussion that often surrounds his music.

Sixteen Saltines,” a sort of White Stripes throwback rocker, is probably my favorite track for this exact reason: it’s simple. It has a great guitar riff and satisfyingly heavy drums, and that’s about all there is to it. Like the best garage-rock, it seems to have formed almost out of necessity, rather than any sort of social context–the world was missing a crunchy and concise rock song, and now it has one.

Blunderbuss is also not a perfect album. For example, Jack White’s reliance on “old-school” musical tropes goes a bit too far with “I Guess I Should Go to Sleep,” which takes all of the worst parts of blues-rock (grating repetition and honky-tonk pianos among them) rather than the ones that White often appropriates best (a good riff is nowhere to be found here, and the track actually seems a little–gasp–overdone in its instrumentation and production). The flaws Blunderbuss may have, however, are easily overlooked in favor of the album’s consistency and, above all, the undeniable satisfaction of potential being realized. You may love or hate Jack White’s whole deal–what with the self-conscious eccentricity, the unapologetically old-fashioned technique, and the constant lying about his past–but, after nearly a decade since the greatest White Stripes releases, it’s nice to have a bona fide good album to finally back up all the hype.

–Alex Robertson, Arts Editor

Posted by on April 23, 2012. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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