Jack White - Blunderbuss

A turbulent insight into one man’s wrath
Jack White - Blunderbuss

That Jack white has never yet disappointed with any of his musical ventures, it stands to reason that at some point he is bound to trip up. But, this being an artist who revels in surprising at every turn, maybe he never will. Maybe Jack White is unassailable, incapable of floundering. It would seem, judging by the strength of his most anticipated release since the demise of The White Stripes, that this man’s purple patch is plentiful and fragrant.

‘Blunderbuss’, following directly in the wake of The Dead Weather (and The Raconteurs before them), sounds like a band effort; it’s thick, full, and heavy, with enough layers and bombshells to suggest he’s left the minimalism of his former duo far behind.

The foreboding ‘Missing Pieces’ sets the scene: an uneasy rhythm disarms you, before Jack enters with a scratchy guitar and singing about nose bleeds in the shower, fingers in the icebox, and legs that are long gone. It’s a warning about people who take what they can get from you - in this case, body parts.

Second single ‘Sixteen Saltines’ is delightfully reminiscent of ‘White Blood Cells’ era Jack, its stop/start rhythms, fuzz guitar and searing solos all thrilling, and he’s delightfully creepy throughout: “She doesn’t know but when she’s gone I drink her perfume,” he sneers. The tone of vengeance continues into ‘Freedom At 21’ where his diatribe towards a female antagonist intensifies (could this be his divorce album? Is ‘Blunderbuss’ Jack White’s ‘Blood on The Tracks’?): “She don’t care what kinds of wounds she’s inflicted on me / She don’t care what colour bruises that she’s leaving on me,” he rails.

Talking of bruises, ‘Love Interruption’ is clearly a song written by someone who’s known the painful side of passion - brutal images of infliction paint the story of a battered heart. It’s the gentlest song so far, but it’s still as deftly potent. It’s followed by the similarly deceiving country waltz title track, replete with darkly romantic undertones.

Pianos feature heavily on ‘hypocritical kiss’ and ‘Weep Themselves To Sleep’, the former another hateful tirade with melodic tinkles, the latter scarred with stabbing theatrical flourishes. ‘I’m Shaking’ is something of a relief; Little Willie John’s bluesy rockabilly classic that namechecks Bo Diddley, it’s crying out for an accompanying video which sees White dancing. Please.

From Bo Diddley to Jerry Lee Lewis, the alliterative ‘Trash Tongue Talker’ (guess what she’s done now?) kicks into a wicked honky-tonk solo twice, while ‘hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy’ is similarly rollicking, with a spirited banjo accompaniment, with the spit ‘n’ sawdust blowing next into the country lament ‘I Guess I Should Go To Sleep’.

The reflective ‘on And on And on’ sees the anger from throughout finally turn into self-pity (“God only knows just where I am going”) and frustration (“The people around me won’t let me become what I need to / They want me the same”) on a soft, deep burning musical backdrop.

Final track ‘Take Me With You When You Go’ turns from a pleading waltz to a fuzz blitz where helium vocals and machine-gun riffs suggest that a fairy tale ending is not forthcoming for ‘Blunderbuss’. Not that we were expecting one.

It’s a powerful album - in sonic force and pure emotion - and not necessarily one you want to listen to in a good mood. Driven by demons and fired by fury, ‘Blunderbuss’ is a turbulent insight into one man’s wrath - but it rocks. Hard. Sorry Jack, but your pain is ultimately our gain.

8/10

Words by Simon Harper

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