Jack White just can’t sit still. Blessed with a formidable work ethic – even as a pre-fame carpenter, he’d whittle out a half dozen chairs in a day to his own remarkable designs – he moves between multiple roles. There’s the label boss, heading up Third Man’s release schedule; he’s also running a vinyl pressing plant, while (rightly) urging major label bosses to up their game.
He's also a guitarist. Jack White aims to release two studio albums in 2022, a sign of his prodigious lockdown creativity, but also perhaps a divergence in his approach. If 2012 solo debut ‘Blunderbuss’ leans on his blue impulses – it included a cover of Little Willie John’s R&B warhorse ‘I’m Shakin’ for example – then subsequent releases have gradually introduced wilder, more free impulses.
‘Fear Of The Dawn’ feels an emphatic embrace of the latter. The album’s sketchy, distorted feel is reminiscent of lockdown anxiety, where hobbies were taken up and abandoned, projects left unfinished. Indeed, there’s a half-finished feel to some of this record: ‘Dusk’ is only 30 seconds long, while ‘Eosophobia’ is split into a main track, and a later reprise. It’s guitar heavy – his approach is laden in effects, resulting in wild solos that recall King Crimson’s prog maximalism and HudMo style over-the-top electronics. Guttural in a way his blues excursions never could be, tracks like ‘The White Raven’ and ‘Into The Twilight’ at times literally shriek and scream, the sound of energy unleashed.
Yet it can also be heavy going. At times you ache for a song to lean on, a structure to fall back on; ‘Fear Of The Dawn’ can be self-indulgent, while the snappy writing of ‘What’s The Trick’ is mainly notable purely for its absence.
A recent Zane Lowe interview touched on Jack White’s work with Jay-Z, the pair seemingly leaving countless ideas on the cutting room floor. Listening to ‘Fear Of The Dawn’, it’s tempting to hear Hove’s influence lingering – the snappy, if child-like, rap on ‘Hi De Ho’ or the phat drums on ‘That Was Then (This Was Now)’.
An intriguing if not fully formed experiment, ‘Fear Of The Dawn’ is a defiantly un-Jack White statement, transgressing his role as a traditionalist in favour of something less logical. Packed with nervous energy, its haphazard dash to the finish line is nothing if not fascinating.
Words: Robin Murray
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