Lazaretto review by Jack White

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  • Released: Jun 10, 2014
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 6.8 (58 votes)
Jack White: Lazaretto
5

Sound — 8
Jack White is, for many, the king of blues-rock in the 21st century. Ever since he wrote the riff to "Seven Nation Army," White has more or less achieved success with everything he has attempted. From The White Stripes to The Raconteurs to The Dead Weather to his ever-eccentric solo career, White has amassed a catalog diverse enough to display his resourcefulness when it comes to attaining a certain sound that suits a certain purpose. All the while, his music is distinctly bluesy in feel regardless of the different directions he has gone, leading many to call White a genre-defining artist (a genre that seems to me like prog blues).

Like most progressive artists, White hides a focused countenance behind the musical eccentricities that would have some define him as progressive. Maybe on purpose, the album art describes perfectly what I am talking about: White sitting, not looking at the camera, deep in thought, with his figures of creativity surrounding him. At some points, like in the trippy song "That Black Bat Licorice," it seems that White has lost his mind (and I mean that in the good, evil genius type of way). Yet, when viewed in the context of the whole album, it seems like this vibe is actually the product of an intensely focused White making conscious decisions as to how he wants his sound to affect the listener. Or he could be making this up as he goes along and I'm just talking out of my you know what.

Maybe this is already understood, but Jack White is also breaking new personal ground. For instance, this album has little focus on guitars. Instead of the guitar being the central instrument in White's songs, it is now merely a tool; one of many at his disposal when trying to achieve a certain sound. For example, White's toolshed now incorporates rap in his songs as well as country tendencies, something that White seemed to allude to in "Blunderbuss" but only now has fully embraced. While I do miss the more hard-driving nature of "Blunderbuss," I recognize White's growth as a musician. But, heck, growth doesn't matter if the music doesn't sound good. Thankfully, the music on here is just as good, if not better than that found on "Blunderbuss."

The only aspect of this album that is subpar is the staying power of the songs. Upon a first listen of the album, each song jumps out as having something new and exciting. However, upon a second listen, these variations have little effect, and in fact, it appears that the album is a collection of songs that all blend in/sound the same. The biggest culprit of this downfall, in my opinion, is the lack of truly outstanding material. Though there are no dud songs, there are also no "wow" songs: nothing that makes a lasting impression, nothing that you will find yourself humming fifteen minutes later. Well, maybe "Just One Drink" is an exception, but only because the chorus is repeated incessantly.

Of course, we could just as easily look back at this album twenty years from now and reminisce about how it saved rock and roll by taking the genre down a new path that nobody had previously explored, thus influencing countless new artists. Or, this could be in the trash heap by the end of the year.

Lyrics — 8
As much as Jack White grows musically on this album, he also grows vocally. As I mentioned before, he is now injecting a much more concentrated dose of rap into his songs than before. On this album, Jack White also uses harmonies more prominently than before; they can be heard at pretty much any point of the album. White's voice is also versatile; when harmonizing with himself or others, he is able to use his voice to either accompany or create a variety of musical situations.

White's lyrics are, for the most part, boring or incomprehensible becomes it seems as if they were stretched to fulfill the needs of a song. In other words, there isn't much to speak of lyrically in terms of an agenda or a message.

Nevertheless, here are some catchy lyrics from "Just One Drink":

"You drink water, I drink gasoline
One of us is happy, one of us is mean
I love you, but honey, why don't you love me?
Yeah, well, I love you, but honey, why don’t you love me?

Just one drink gets me closer
Just one drink, it rolls you over
But then I start to think you're growing colder
The older and older, I am."

Overall Impression — 8
Overall, this is a great second solo album from Jack White. Not only does he show a considerable amount of musical growth, innovation, and ingenuity, but he also manages to make the album sound pretty damn good. Everything on this album is well thought out and executed, even at the points where it seems that White is trying to just have fun.

Nevertheless, this album is hindered by the fact that there are no supremely outstanding or over the top songs to keep the album fresh after one listen. Still, I heartily recommend the album to you. In my listening experience, the best song was "That Black Bat Licorice."

23 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Guitarpippin
    Couldn't agree more. I love Jack and all his work, and I couldn't help but feel Lazaretto being a slight disappointment. It's well recorded, well produced, there's lots to hear and yet I miss the simple riff-filled songs. Even Blunderbuss had Sixteen Saltines for the people that secretly hoped for more White Stripes-esque tunes. Nevertheless, it's a solid album. Just not fantastic if you're not into country. It's more "pleasant" than it is "awesome".
    jgpliskin6
    I see what you're saying, but I think you're forgetting that TWS were never just a band that churned out riff-filled songs. They've always had elements of folk and country scattered throughout all of their albums. I actually think this new album is very well rounded. Lazaretto, High Bell Stepper, and That Black Bat Licorice all rely heavily on riffs. Songs like Entitlement, I Think I Found the Culprit, and Want and Able are VERY White Stripes-esque in my opinion ala White Moon, A Martyr For My Love For You, Effect and Cause, etc. Three Women and Just One Drink are typical rockers, similar to Trash Tongue Talker on Blunderbuss. Would You Fight For My Love? is just flat out fantastic. Alone in My Home is a just a poppy little tune. Really, the only one that stands out to me as being very country is Temporary Ground. But that's one track. Yeah, there are sprinkles of it in other songs as well, but to me that doesn't automatically change the whole song into a country song. Anyways, this is all just opinion after listening to the album about ten times already, haha.
    Chickendirt
    A hugely underwhelming album. Expecting it to go somewhere but instead I was left waiting. Only one or two strong tracks and the rest a repetitive filler. No wonder he recorded the album so quickly, it's basically one song repeating over and over
    ETID666
    im not sure why people are saying this album is a letdown and isn't good there are white stripe type songs on the album and i think the music and lyrics are incredible every time I listen to it I like it more like josh1003 said people need to give it more time, I can't wait to hear alot of these songs live he puts a different twist on songs at his shows
    Chickendirt
    I had a few listens to it and about the fourth time I couldn't actually finish the album. It was a massive let down for me. And this is coming from someone who doesn't really like White Stripes (I prefer Dead Weather)
    UniformRecon
    Was really disappointed with this album. Especially since High Ball Stepper and Lazaretto made this seem like it was going to be a pretty rocking album, and then WHOOSH, COUNTRYYY!!! The backing band also takes over too much of the mix. What a disappointment that this album is average at best, especially as a huge Jack White fan.
    milospf88
    You can't judge this album properly on just one or two listens, you must dig in and listen to it at least a dozen times to get into the substance, like with every great non-pop album. This album is amazing, I really prefer it to Blunderbus...
    pjdwyer30
    liked it, but only felt it on-par with Blunderbuss. It may be the White Stripes fan in me, but I still find Sixteen Saltines to be my favorite solo song by him. I think he is saving his garage-rock and heavy guitars for the next Dead Weather album. This project is where he can go in whatever creative musical direction he wants. Three Women, Lazaretto, and High Ball Stepper are terrific standouts on this album for me. everything else just seems like filler. good filler, but filler none the less. 7/10.
    Pukka-VCU
    Am I the only one who gets an old Rolling Stones vibe from Just One Drink? Especially the vocals, very classic Jagger. I personally love this album and have it on constant rotation with Killer Be Killed lately.
    rbramble18
    Lol guys...he's clearly going for a slightly different sound than his other projects...if Jack and Meg decide to get back together for another Stripes album, then I'm sure it's going to be just as riff-driven as previous albums. But for his solo stuff, he is going for a particular sound. And this album is NOT all country. I actually thought this outperformed and flowed better than Blunderbuss, an album that really grew on me over time. I really was not disappointed by this album, but frankly, I haven't been disappointed with literally anything he has done since the first White Stripes album
    theclassicrock
    Personally I think Would You Fight For My Love? is one of the strongest tracks he ever released. The opening and closing tracks on the other hand are two of the worst.
    rudejude82
    I love jack white. The dude can almost do no wrong. Except this album is absolute garbage.