Blunderbuss

by Jack White

So, The White Stripes are no more. After six albums, with the last one being 2007's Icky Thump, Jack and Meg have gone their separate musical ways.

But that shouldn't worry Jack too much; even during The White Stripes, he was off every so often dipping his talented toe into other musical waters with the likes of The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. The only real surprise about his debut solo effort is that it has taken so long to get here.

boom music reviews - Jack White Blunderbuss

As soon as he opens his gob on the track Missing Pieces you know you're on familiar ground with White's unmistakable vocal curlings. It's a lightly produced, funky little number, dipped in a retro seventies chic. If this is White setting out his stall, there's plenty to look forward to.

Sixteen Saltines kicks off in gritty style. An electric guitar sizzles throughout, with White gargling vocals like his life depended on it. It's a supersized audio meal deal for one.

That tense, urgent vocal continues onto Freedom At 21. Again, it's a track that contains few instruments, and yet the ones that can be heard are making a fine old racket. It's loud, rough around the edges stuff that demands to be heard.

The single Love Interruption features White singing over a single guitar and an organ. It only goes to prove that production can do a lot of things to an album and the career of a large number of artists for that matter but at the end of the day, true talent shines through.

White whips some strings out for the titular track. It's tinged with country, with a peppering of western thrown in for good measure. Ultimately though, it's pure Jack White.

The slower paced Hypocritical Kiss has a piano that takes centre stage. It's another track that highlights the rhythmic persuasions throughout this album. With the average track time only 3 minutes in length, Blunderbuss is a delightful smorgasbord of White's talent; none of them on their own could be considered epic, but one after another you start to feel completely satisfied.

Weep Themselves to Sleep has one of those intros that forces you to sit up straight and pay attention to what's to come. It's the album's showstopper, that's for sure, punctuated as it is with drama.

Love affects us all in different ways, but if White suffers from it in the way he describes in I'm Shakin', he may well need to seek medical advice. If being with a woman makes you shake and sweat uncontrollably, it only sounds ideal if you want to lose some weight. You'd certainly be a mess if you went out in public together, that's for sure. This is possibly the closest thing to White letting his hair down musically, as he just sounds like he's having a ball. And so he should.

Trash Tongue Talker epitomises a theme that runs through the entire album. It's as if it's possessed by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, as White delivers these short stories of his in a brash, old fashioned rock n' roll style. It's a raging raw energy that produces each and every track with bold aplomb.

The award for best title on the album must surely go to Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy. It's a bouncy, bluesy song, that would probably sound at its best floating out of an out of the way bar Treme style, down New Orleans way.

I Guess I Should Go to Bed doesn't do much musically, but again, it's a chance for White to have a bit of fun with what is essentially his own version of a lullaby.

There's a sombre start to On And On And On, laced with the menace of a storm brewing. But it's just a threat. It's loose directionally, but then so much of the production is on this album, in a good way. It does attempt to throw a punch or two at the end, but nothing is thrown with any conviction.

There's a touch more flamboyance about the final track Take Me With You When You Go. It delivers the punches missed in the last track, with a dizzying melee attack of instruments. It lacks real impact that can be found elsewhere though.

And there you have it, Jack White's debut solo album. To say that it isn't very surprising isn't quite as damning as you'd expect. You might think that there was a lot of pressure on him to deliver something extraordinary, but it appears that White doesn't succumb to those kinds of pressures.

What he's produced is pretty much what you'd expect from him; an album that could only have been produced by him, in his own imitable style. It manages to impress in the sense that it feels like it was a completely effortless affair. Jack White could have quite conceivably written the whole thing in the time it takes to listen to the whole album. He's that talented.

Has he pushed the boundaries of his talent? Probably not. But what he's produced here is more than enough to keep his fans happy.

Blunderbuss is a truly fine collection of songs that cements White's position as one of the most reliable creative forces to come out of the good ole US of A in quite some time.

four out of five