Dark and brooding, quiet and reflective, clever and sophisticated, fast and fun, there’s a lot to Jack White’s Blunderbuss, his debut solo album following the end of The White Stripes. All of this skins down to a great new record and a return to brilliance from Detroit’s favourite son, not that he’s ever been far from that.
Opening almost softly with Missing Places, mixing keys and guitar to set the standard for the rest of the album, Blunderbuss doesn’t take too long to catch a fire in the angry smash of Sixteen Saltines. A heavy hook runs throughout the track, a bit like Seven Nation Army, but as with much of Jack White’s back history guitar effects come into play to mix things up, followed by winding, screaming riffs.
Going in new directions, he pulls out a rapid fire rap-like beast in Freedom at 21, which is again dominated by another power hook. It’s as dark as Blunderbuss gets with some gruesome lyrics and wrecking ball feedback. While Love Interruption is a little calmer it’s still littered with dark resonance, which is tempered by acoustic guitar rhythms and some really cool bass clarinet melodies.
The title track’s best features are the raconteur lyrics and the hypnotic slide guitar. There’s a great combination of guitar and blues piano on Hypocritical Kiss, which continues with deeper tones and more classical piano notes on Weep Themselves to Sleep. The stuttering riff towards the end cleverly interplays with the piano melodies to build to the close of tears.
I’m Shakin’ is a firm favourite from the album. Inspired by the old blues of Bo Didley and Moody Waters, it’s got fun and class in abundance. The comic timing of the main rhythm and the chorus are bolstered by some great Motown backing vocals and a touch of screaming electric guitar. Trash Tongue Talker continues with a slower direction in the blues repertoire that is the beating heart of Blunderbuss. There’s some sweet swing piano and snatching vocals to give it the edge it’s laced with.
Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy brings more swinging blues link-ups and while it’s easily the catchiest track on the album, it’s also one of the weakest when you look at it on its merits. However, it’s a lot of fun while you still appreciate it. I Guess I should Go to Sleep is also a bit of a minnow in the face of earlier behemoths, and On and On and On is a bit of a slow plod with brushed drums and the saving grace of echoing slide guitar.
Final track, Take Me With You When You Go, is also a slow let down initially, giving you an easy option to start the ride again, but before you can get to that point Jack pulls of a wild freakout that you’ll wish could go on for longer than it does. It caps of another great innings from the Detroit batsman and sets up a blues, swing, rock, alt fusion summer that looks set to be filled with some great sounds.
Jack White Blunderbuss album review: 4.7/5