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Released: Apr 24, 2012
Genre: Rock, Garage Rock, Blues Rock, Blues, Folk
Label: Third Man, XL Recordings, Columbia
Number Of Tracks: 13
The much awaited debut solo album from Jack White doesn't disappoint, with a collection of songs that range from somewhere just this side of gospel country to fuzzed out garage rock.
BlunderbussFeatured review by: UG Team, on april 23, 2012 6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Sound: Jack White has been best known for his band, The White Stripes, who released their debut album in 1999. Since that time he has created a very large body of work. He went on to release a total of 6 studio albums with his ex-wife as the White Stripes before they broke up in 2011, all of which were commercially successful. Jack White was also a founding member of the band The Raconteurs who released 2 studio albums which were both commercially successful. Jack White then formed The Dead Weather with Alison Mossheart and other members and has released 2 studio albums which were also commercially successful. Jack has also collaborated with artists such as Beck, The Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Alicia Keys, Bob Dylan, Electric Six, Insane Clown Posse and Loretta Lynn. "Blunderbuss" will be the first solo record from Jack White, but hopefully not the last.
For those of you who have caught some of the few live shows Jack White has held so far, or caught his performance of two new songs on "Saturday Night Live" (he played his first two singles from the album, "Love Interruption" and "Sixteen Saltines") it is easy to see that while the songs are great on the album, they really shine in live performance. Jack White proves with "Blunderbuss" that his music is hard to classify. He seems to be just as comfortable with country gospel as he is with songs like "Sixteen Saltines" which I wouldn't even want to try to label as a genre (hard rock?/garage rock?). All the critics have given favorable reviews of Blunderbuss that I have read, and I will have to agree. I would have liked to see a higher percentage of some of Jack's heavier stuff, but not really disappointed. There is always quality arrangement and songwriting on every release he has been involved with, in my opinion. Jack White recorded the entirety of "Blunderbuss" at his record studio/label, Third Man Records, in Nashville in 2011. Jack White explained why he released this as a solo project, "I've put off making records under my own name for a long time but these songs feel like they could only be presented under my name. These songs were written from scratch, had nothing to do with anyone or anything else but my own expression, my own colors on my own canvas."
It isn't easy to classify the sound of "Blunderbuss". As I've stated already, the album isn't really a single genre. You have songs on a fairly wide scale of genres several of the songs can't be defined as a single genre at all. He has a few guest vocalists on the album, but for the most part it is just Jack's voice. Really, I guess the only thing that ties the songs on "Blunderbuss" together is they are all brimming with energy, either restrained or unleashed, depending on the individual song. // 9
Lyrics: I personally enjoy vocalists whose voices are unusual and have character over vocalists who seem to have trained and all end up sounding the same. Jack White's voice is instantly recognizable and is full of character. Jack has a great range and sings much of the album in an almost falsetto. While conventional standards say that vocal quavers and such are undesirable in music, Jack White uses them to great advantage, as well as dynamics in his vocal volume and vocal tremolo. While many vocalists use their voice as a simple melodic instrument, Jack's pipes are a much more complex thing. He uses both his strengths and his weaknesses as a vocalist to further his artistic goal, and that is a sign of a truly great singer/songwriter.
The actual lyrical themes of Jack's songs seem to revolve around the perspective of a jaded lover dealing with anger, jealousy and acceptance. These themes may very well fit his personal life, because while he is fairly secretive about his personal life, he has recently gone through a divorce as well as went through the breakup of The White Stripes. Anybody who has even seen a video of a White Stripes performance knows that there was some kind of (at least) complex emotional relationship between Jack and Meg. While the media has reported Jack as saying that The White Stripes broke up in order to leave their legacy intact, they fail to mention this happened after they attempted to begin recording a new White Stripes album. The contrast between Jack's secretive nature regarding his personal life and the very passionate vocal performance and lyrics is a strong attraction to his music.
Some of my favorite lyrics from the album would probably come from "Love Interruption", "Sixteen Saltines" and "Freedom At 21". "Love Interruption" starts out: "I want love/ to roll me over slowly/ stick a knife inside me/ and twist it all around./ I want love to/ grab my fingers gently/ slam them in a doorway/ put my face into the ground", and then in the chorus you get a chant of "I won't let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me". In the song "Sixteen Saltines", as a sample of the lyrics you have "Who's jealous who's jealous who's jealous who's jealous of who? / If I get busy then I couldn't care less what you do/ but when I'm by myself I think of nothing else/ than if a boy just might be getting through and touching you". Here is a sample of lyrics from "Freedom At 21": "Cut off the bottoms of my feet/ make me walk on salt/ take me down to the police/ charge me with assault/ a smile on her face/ she does what she wants to me" and then a little later "And she don't care about the things people used to do/ she don't care that what she does has an effect on you/ she's got freedom in the 21st century". I really love the vocal tremolo that Jack uses on "Freedom At 21". Great lyrics as well. // 9
Overall Impression: I pre-ordered the album on both vinyl and CD, and after finally being able to listen to the full album streaming online, I don't regret it at all. Comparing this to Jack White's existing catalog with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, this album definitely stands up. In sound it is closer to The White Stripes than his other projects, but manages to have its own unique sound despite some similarities with his other projects. I would like to have seen some more of Jack's heavier stuff but I can't really complain. The album is really good and I expect it will be one of the standout albums of 2012, but only time will tell. My favorite songs from the album are definitely "Love Interruption", "Sixteen Saltines", "Freedom At 21" and "I'm Shakin'". I don't dislike any of the songs on the album. This album will go in its entirety to my mp3 player for future listens.
Really, there are very few artists that I feel like have a consistently good "product" every time. Jack White is one of them while his different releases with his different bands, and his collaborations, etc., have all had a different sound there is some kind of unifying theme in his work and so far I haven't gotten enough of it. I look forward to future releases by Jack White as a solo artist, as a member of The Raconteurs, as a member of The Dead Weather, as a member of The White Stripes (I'm still hopeful down the road they'll decide to make some more music together), and all of his collaborations. I have been a fan for a long time, and I have tried to be unbiased while writing this review. I will say this in closing this isn't a heavy album, there are only a few heavier songs. The sound is similar to The White Stripes but different enough that just because you like The White Stripes doesn't mean you will like this album. A lot of the focus seems more on songwriting and arrangement than on guitar solos and such there are only a few solos on the whole album. With that being said, I still think it is a great album and worth checking out. // 9
Bayon3twork, on july 19, 2012 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: There is a point in a musician's career where they have adapted and perfected a certain sound to the point that they can instantly be recognized by that tone or style of play. Jack White's debut solo album, "Blunderbuss", is exactly what one would come to expect from having listened to any of his previous band work.
Blunderbuss is a soulful album that incorporates a mixture of garage rock, bluegrass, and country all in a way that allows the album to flow seamlessly. Songs like "Sixteen Saltines" and "Freedom At 21" are packed with energetic Detroit garage rock riffs, which White made popular in the late 90's. The riffs are simple, yet inspired and catchy. The warm tone of the guitar relaxes the listener, as they get lost in White's groove. The album loses its energy with songs like "Love Interruption" and "I Guess I Should Go To Sleep" as the piano is the dominant instrument. The piano acts as a lead in these songs while a faint clean guitar provides rhythm. White shows his impressive musicianship as he arranges the piano composition so well that you can get lost in its flow. White shows his cross-genre skills in songs like "On And On And On", and the title track "Blunderbuss". These songs have a country western vibe. Pedal steels and fiddles are added and the chorus swells while the bridges are simply hypnotizing; just Jack and the piano. // 8
Lyrics: Blunderbuss was a great playground for White to showcase his ability to manipulate songs through vocals. He harmonizes his own voice often throughout the album but can especially be heard in certain songs like "Missing Pieces" and "Sixteen Saltines". The harmonization sounds a little off in "Sixteen Saltines" but that is easily overlooked. White's liveliness is heard in songs where he shouts, hollers, and adds vibrato such as "Freedom At 21". In other songs, White sings duets with a lovely singer by the name of Ruby Amanfu. The duet in "Love Interruption" is chilling, especially when done a capella. In that song, White also controls the mood by the inflection in his voice, raising it to get emotional and then taming himself to slow the song down. In "Weep Themselves To Sleep", the effect over White's voice was an interesting choice to make because it neither added nor took away from the song. It made me wonder why it was even necessary. Songs like "Trash Tongue Talker" and "Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy" show what a great job White does at control a rhythm with just his voice. His vocals prove to be powerful, lively, and bouncy.
As far as lyrics, White's lyrics are the most unique thing about this album. His inspiration for them are everyday situations mostly covering falling in love or being hurt by love. Some songs are about life in general such as "Missing Pieces": "How long is life supposed to be? /Would it kill you to wait so long? /One day mysterious, one day perfect, one day gone." This album has its share of earworm lyrics. Ranging from "Sixteen Saltines" one line, "Who's jealous, who's jealous who's jealous, who's jealous of who?" to "Love Interruption"'s "I won't let love disrupt, corrupt/Or interrupt me." These lyrics will be stuck in your head long after they've been played. // 6
Overall Impression: "Blunderbuss" is a solid, yet expected hit from Jack White. It didn't break any new territory that hasn't been covered before by him. If anything, it sadly showed how replaceable Meg White is. If I had not known anything about this album, I could have easily mistaken it for another White Stripes album. In a positive note, "Blunderbuss" demonstrated how talented Jack White is as a musician. He smoothly orchestrated the album. It started off energetic and although it slowed pace, it really had catchy songs throughout. Although White Stripes are broken up, this album was a fine substitution instead. // 8
unregistered, on april 26, 2012 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: Like most of us, my first taste of "Blunderbuss" came from White's release of "Love Interruption". As such my hopes were high that we were finally going to see some music from White that would be the proper substance to fill the hole left with the death of The White Stripes.
Unfortunately, things did not pan out this way. While there are a handful of tracks that capture the energy of White's earlier music ("Love Interruption", "Sixteen Saltines", "Trash Tongue Talker"...) much of the album falls largely flat.
The album's lead of track, "Missing Pieces" feels very much like The White Stripes song "There's No Home For You Here". It has a strong groove to it, and Jack's voice cuts through the mix as always but there's something unsettling to me here. To my ear, the music sounds over-produced, or ill-mixed for a Jack White track. While normally a fan of White's distinctive vocal style, here it is jarring and distracting.
This pattern of distracting vocals pops up over and over again in this album, most notably in the track "Freedom At 21", where Jack's awkward rap reminds one of Mindless Self Indulgence more than anything that can be expected from White. Is this evolution of White's style, or is he simply trying something new and (in my opinion) falling short?
In all, what energy this album has feels like an overproduced shadow of that found in any of White's previous musical endeavors. For fans of The White Stripes, this album's music does sound like a natural progression from "Icky Thump", towards a more produced, mellowed out sound with only hints and references to the raw, gritty energy that made White famous. // 7
Lyrics: Many of White's lyrics in this album feel more contrived than usual. For me, the lyrical high point of this album is in "Love Interruption". The haunting, frustrated remorseful tone of White's singing and writing plays with White's guitar line to present a powerful, striking image. Unfortunately, from here the album begins to drop.
"Sixteen Saltine"'s energy is evocative of the Jack White of old, but the lyrics are nonsensical to the point of being distracting. We've seen a somewhat silly, and childish White before in each of his previous endeavors, but the writing in this album is somehow... Lacking. // 5
Overall Impression: When I was first informed of this album's impending release I was terribly excited. I had thought that since The White Stripes had practically been a solo act for white, that we could begin to expect more of the same, putting white on the map with the high energy Black Keys enjoying success from their recent "El Camino". Unfortunately, by comparison to all of White's previous work, and especially the artists to which he will be compared, this album is tame. There isn't a single song on here - barring "Love Interruption" - that strikes me as a hit.
The L.A. Times reviewed "Blunderbuss" saying "White focuses on the pre-computer, post-hippie era of music, circa 1970-75, a style mastered by The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Mott The Hoople, The Who...", all bands that started aggressive but ultimately became heavier and mellower as they matured. I disagree with this analysis, because while White has mellowed, and his music is certainly more sophisticated than the punchy, off-timed powerchords of The White Stripes days, "Blunderbuss" has a lighter, more 'pop' oriented feel, as opposed to his rough-and-tumble blues of the past.
The L.A. Times also relates White to fellow Blues-men The Black Keys and Gary Clark Junior, but I don't feel that this analysis is particularly apt. While Gary Clark Jr. does seem to be a rightful member of the new wave of young blues men, White seems to shirk the blues in favor of a higher-energy, pop/R&B feel at times. Likewise, while The Black Keys have taken strong influence from the musicians of old, They have updated these themes and brought them into powerful, jarring riffs and tunes that pull the audience onto the floor to move, and shake. Compared to the Keys' "El Camino", "Blunderbuss" is audio wallpaper.
I may come off as a little harsh but perhaps that's my disappointment sneaking through. If you were hoping for a kick-back to the old, edgy White Stripes days fully of high-energy riffs like "Sixteen Saltines", or the powerful moody presentation of Love Interruption, you will be sorely disappointed. As a stand-alone, "Blunderbuss" is at least a good indication of how far Jack has come as an artist. It's certainly worth a listen or two, but after that I'm not sure that it'll keep me coming back over and over.
If I managed to lose this album, I don't think I'd be too broken up about it. White's music has always been at the very top of my favorites list, but I fear he is beginning to slip and I find myself more and more in The Black Keys, Gary Clark Jr. camp. Pick it up, and give it a whirl, but don't be surprised if you find the once-champion of indie garage rock to have gone soft in his old age and tenure. // 6