Ever notice the similarity between Jack White III and the modern-day Willy Wonka, portrayed by Johnny Depp? Put a top hat on Jack White and suddenly to the eye he appears to be this musical magician. Pulling stunts like launching 1000 helium balloons tied to flexi-discs containing the Blunderbuss highlight, “Freedom At 21”, to his left-field performances with the likes of comedians Stephen Colbert and Conan O’Brien. It’s this mysterious, innovative nature he lives by that deems him one of rock’s greatest icons of the last decade. Especially when his sky-soaring single is equally as evocative as the method for placing it into the hands of eager listeners.
Blunderbuss is Jack White’s first solo record, although, after failed attempts to record with Wu-Tang Clan member RZA, he went on recording the album with an all female band. Whether this was his attempt to fill the void of recently departing The White Stripes (and future endeavors with second half, Meg White), or divorcing his now ex-wife, British model and musician Karen Elson, these events play an obvious role in the record’s lyricism.
Back in January, we were introduced to the intriguing first single “Love Interruption”, which looking back now, seems like some sort of trick in anticipating Blunderbuss, considering it’s acoustic aura. The ear-endearing tune eases like feathers through speakers up against the desired expectations of love Jack declares vocally. “I want love to grab my fingers gently/Slam them in a doorway/Put my face into the ground.” Here’s where Jack begins to reveal more beneath the cape, proclaiming the hazards of love and how he “won’t let love disrupt, corrupt, or interrupt” him.
Sonically, Blunderbuss plays out like a compilation of Jack White songs from all over the music spectrum. Album opener “Missing Pieces” conjures the punk-folk resonance of The Raconteurs, one of White’s exhaustive side projects through his label, Third Man Records. The proceeding “Sixteen Saltines”, the album’s second single, could easily have been a White Stripes B-side, but backed by a full band. Not to mention, it’s jagged garage riffage makes for more than just some lost track. As the aforementioned “Freedom At 21” begins with fluttering drums, followed by bewildering single string melodies felicitous for a desert venture, it’s evident the varying realms this record beholds.
Despite being such an abounding artist, diverse enough in his own styles of song writing, Jack continues to pay tribute to early rhythm and blues. He nods to African-American composer Rudy Toombs, covering the doo-wop dancer “I’m Shakin’” and rendering it wrought with grit and groove. Even the late number, “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep”, rambles through a piano waltz accompanied by rustic bluegrass harmonies. It’s what a song would sound like if he’d joined The Grateful Dead in the 70’s for a joint and jam session.
But put all street cred, history and influences aside; Blunderbuss marks a pivotal point in the prime of White’s prolific profile. It’s the best of everything he’s exemplified to this point, yet a work that exists entirely on its own. For what its worth, Blunderbuss should be stored on the top shelf at Third Man, beside the best of his bantered blues-rock offerings, Elephant, Broken Boy Soldiers, and Horehound. Because, at the end of the day, Jack wouldn’t have it any other way.
8.8 / 10
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