Lazaretto Review

artist: Jack White date: 06/17/2014 category: compact discs
Jack White: Lazaretto
Released: Jun 10, 2014
Genre: Blues Rock, Garage Rock, Country Rock, Folk Rock
Label: Third Man, XL Recordings, Columbia
Number Of Tracks: 11
Jack White continues his creative streak with an innovative album that blends of elements of blues, country, rap, and prog.
 Sound: 8
 Lyrics: 7.7
 Overall Impression: 7.3
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overall: 8
Lazaretto Featured review by: UG Team, on june 14, 2014
5 of 5 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 8

Lyrics: 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." // 8

Overall Impression: 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." // 8

- Parker Abt (c) 2014

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overall: 6.3
Lazaretto Reviewed by: The_Maestro1, on june 16, 2014
3 of 4 people found this review helpful

Sound: Jack White: Coming to a State Fair near you?

"Lazaretto," the second solo release from the former White Stripes front man, swings the saloon doors open to find Jack sitting at an old cabinet grand with a piece of straw in his mouth and a tip jar by his side as he attempts to blur the lines between rock, country, ragtime… and pretty much any other genre he feels like playing. 

His customary DigiTech Whammy pedal and Gretsch White Penguin guitar have been largely put into mothballs for much of this album, in favor of fiddles and piano. The result is a very impressive offering that showcases the all-encompassing skill and creativity of one of the genuinely generation-defining musicians of the past twenty years, however, that does not mean that all of his devoted fans will devour it the same way they did his garage-rock blues sound. 

This album is not for everyone, and it does threaten to alienate listeners who think they are in for 12 tracks that will be similar to the album title-sharing single, "Lazaretto." Other than "That Black Bat Licorice," and the instrumental "High Ball Stepper," the entire album diverges sharply from that classic "Icky Thump" or "Blue Orchid" style to deliver an album that, for all intents and purposes, probably should not be categorized in the rock section of your local music store (assuming you can still find a local music store).

In many ways, Jack has always been an anachronism amongst today's over-produced, technology-reliant musicians, but he has never ventured so far away from center as he does here. His first solo album "Blunderbuss" did warn listeners that Jack was not bound to continue to make White Stripes albums forever, but even it offered more places for rock fans to find their musical oasis.

In many ways, "Lazaretto" feels like a country album bent through the musical lens of Jack White aesthetics. Music fans should not fear this change, as the resulting tracks are good, but they should be warned as to what type of sound they have signed up to hear. // 7

Lyrics: It will be rare to find a songwriter with more creativity and sharply written lyrics than Jack White. A perfect example of his writing prowess can be heard with lines from "That Black Bat Licorice" such as, "I want to cut out my tongue and let you hold onto it for me/ Cause without my skull to amplify the sounds it might get boring."

The problem some listeners may have with the album is not the lyrics, but rather the delivery of many lines. With the slight variations in genre, Jack croons a much more country-sounding twang to many of his lines.

Certain stanzas also receive the classic repetitive echo of a genre-staple call and response, such as the line from White's re-imagining of the Blind Willie McTell tune "Three Women" as he sings, "I got three women/ red, blonde and brunette. Yeah, I got three women/ red, blonde and brunette," and "I'm lonely at night/ but I stay up until the break of day. Yeah, I'm lonely at night/ but I stay up until the break of day." The same can be said for the song "Just One Drink" with lines such as, "I love you/ honey why don't you love me, Yeah, well I love you/ honey why don't you love me?"

This style does stay true to the genre, but, unfortunately, caused my attention to wane and left me searching for the skip button a few times. // 7

Overall Impression: I am as big a Jack White admirer as there exists - without the need for a musical restraining order - yet much of "Lazaretto" was lost on me. While I appreciate the skill it takes to plays multiple instruments in multiple genres, the overall direction of his more country-sounding style simply does not appeal to me as much as when he takes those elements but leaves them inside of a rock tune. 

For me, the most impressive songs on the album are "Lazaretto," "The Black Bat Licorice" and "Alone in My Home." Aside from those songs, I can't say much of the rest of the album will get a lot of playtime with me.

I wanted more from "Just One Drink," as the ingenious use of two separate electric or acoustic intro options on the vinyl offering made it one I was eager to check out, yet the repetitiveness of the song made me quick to abandon it. The same too can be said for the song, "Would You Fight for My Love," which may contain some of the best lyrics on the album, yet the music comes and goes in patches with much of the song left too sparse, and when it feels like it may be ready to break open, it retreats back and never truly become what I hoped it would.

"Lazaretto" is a very competent album that is sure to garner critical praise and adoration from fans of this genre of music, but, at least for me, I'm still left waiting for him to come to his senses and reunite The Raconteurs, which I still feel is when Jack White is at his best. // 5

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overall: 8.7
Lazaretto Reviewed by: Paul*Stanley, on june 17, 2014
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: Jack White III's second solo disc, "Lazaretto," occupies a strange place in time. Many of the songs on it sound modern and extremely old at the same time, like it's an album of updated covers of songs written 80 years ago, but there's not a single cover song on the album. It creates an interesting listen, especially after having learned that Jack "collaborated with his younger self" by finishing and modifying songs he wrote when he was 19 years old, before his fame in the White Stripes. But this album doesn't sound like The White Stripes - none of the songs on it really sound like anything Jack White's done before; he has some of the finger-bleeding guitar shreds he became famous for, but none of it retreads old territory. In fact, the album avoids being pigeonholed into a single genre. The only way I can aptly describe it is that this record is one only Jack White could do. 

The title track features some of his signature heavy blues but he adds some spice to it by creating an almost Rage Against The Machine-style vocal line with loads of swagger. My favorite track on the album is probably "Just One Drink," which toes the line between his signature garage sound and a ragtime jaunt. The record has some downbeat songs driven by piano and acoustic guitar, which sound authentically retro rather than kitchy. He avoids creating some kind of shout-out to folksy country songs of decades past; it's like he's reached back in time to pull songs from bygone eras into the modern day. // 9

Lyrics: The lyrics on "Lazaretto" are obscure as Jack White's ever done. More so than on any of his other albums, Jack creates characters and tells some stories within these songs, like in the album lead-off "Three Women" where he is torn between a trio of suitor s- red, blonde, and brunette. "Alone in My Home" is a particularly interesting lonely, mournful number where Jack is ironically accompanied by a female voice and the duet works out pretty nicely. 

As I said before, Jack seems to be channeling Zack de la Rocha on the title song, even including a refrain in Spanish. It really sticks out (in a good way) because Jack is comparatively so laid-back on the rest of the album. "High Ball Stepper" is another interesting track because the "vocal" isn't really a vocal part at all, but a reverb-filled fiddle piece that sounds like a chorus of women giving a little yelp. The man himself referred to it as a vocal part in a recent NPR interview though, so we're going to have to take his word for it. You may never really know what Jack is singing about, but his voice sounds great on each song. // 8

Overall Impression: Jack White has churned out another head-scratcher of an album. He creates his own modern-retro sound on each track, which warrants the album at least a couple of listens. Fans of his loud guitar work will appreciate "Lazaretto," "High Ball Stepper," and "That Black Bat Licorice" while fans of his more subdued stuff (like much of "Blunderbuss") will appreciate the rest of the album. The record is at its best when it's playing a foot-stomping, upbeat tracks, but none of the tracks truly land as duds.

The best part about "Lazaretto" is that you'll never know where the next track will take you, which is really Jack White's signature quality at this point. Whether you're pumping your fist or dancing with one of your three women, this album is uniquely Jack White and is attention-grabbing, though not always amazing, throughout. // 9

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