Sunday, July 22, 2012

Same Boy You've Always Known:

Few solo debuts were met with as much anticipation Jack White's. In the wake of the demise of The White Stripes, Blunderbuss offers an explosion of emotion that leaves you feeling melancholy long after its over. Get in your favorite comfy chair and let's talk about love gone wrong.
Same Boy You've Always Known
Jack White's 'Blunderbuss' / Album Review
July 22
by Stacie Adams
Same Boy You've Always Known
Jack White's 'Blunderbuss' / Album Review
Released Apr. 23 on Third Man
Words By Stacie Adams
It’s hard separating Jack White from his former and most famous band, The White Stripes, mostly because he was The White Stripes. There’s a joke regarding Meg White being replaced by a drum machine, and while slightly misogynistic it’s not exactly untrue.

The year before White’s solo debut, Blunderbuss, was released The White Stripes disbanded suddenly and without much explanation. Only a few months before the official announcement Jack White was claiming new material was forthcoming. This leads a serious music fan to ask how much of Blunderbuss comes from The White Stripes breaking up.

It’s a pretty tempting association to make. It’s a melancholy record, more so than any of Jack White’s previous output and some lyrics seem tailor made to the myth of The White Stripes, a myth that was largely created by White himself. Of course White denies this, but he also used to run around claiming that he and Meg were brother and sister, so he’s obviously not a very reliable source.

Either way, Blunderbuss is a tough nut to crack. It’s not unlike a White Stripes release, with lots of quirky arrangements and poetic lyrics about confounding love, yet something is lacking. It’s surprisingly free of heavy riffage, and musically there is no real standout track. There are some inspired moments, particularly on the part of backup vocals and assorted keys, though sometimes these arrangements seem to overwhelm White. Or maybe it’s just that we’re so often used to a lo-fi sound from his releases.

The songs veer from straight garage rock to sappy, almost adult contemporary melodies that somehow always manage to win you over in the end. While the singles are a lot weaker than the rest of the album, the only real low point is the cover of 60s R&B singer Little Willie John’s "I’m Shakin’", which can’t lay a finger on the ass of the original.

What is notable is that White has apparently grown up in the wake of his band’s demise. There are no more childlike songs devoted to love and everlasting friendship. Instead we get the single "Sixteen Saltines" and the accompanying video, which clearly owes a debt to the white trash cult classic Gummo,
celebrating adolescence by way of self abuse and bad behavior.

Gone is the bombast of songs like "Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine" or the smug dismissal of "Now Mary". Even when Jack White is aping the demeanor of a tough as nails rocker (as on "Freedom at 21") something doesn’t really ring true. Instead the genuine songs are the ones that express heartache and regret in a way not previously heard. It’s a downbeat record, evoking a feeling of sadness that has heretofore been missing from the Jack White oeuvre.

On The White Stripes’ third album, White Blood Cells, was a short song called "Little Room", which bemoans fame and success for muddying the creative impulse. On it White expresses the desire to go back to his ‘little room’ where he got started. Meg White’s simplistic drumming and quiet, girlish demeanor was a part of that ‘little room’ in which Jack White started out. Now that she’s gone he seems to be floundering in the mansion his talent has forged.
Posted on July 22, 2012

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