There are very few things Jack White could do to make me stop loving him. He came close a while back when I heard his collaboration with Insane Clown Posse. He’s free to make his own stupid choices, so I listened to the song, shook my head and looked at the computer with my “I’m not mad I’m just disappointed” face and let it go. Things didn’t get much better when I heard the first single off of Blunderbuss, “Love Interruption.” I’m on record as hating most singles so that shouldn’t really be a surprise.
So when I finally got to push play on the album I was cautiously optimistic, hoping for the best and expecting the worst. I’m glad I didn’t come in with high hopes, because I ended up being pleasantly surprised by the music here.
It kicks off great with “Missing Pieces.” It’s a rocker that follows a familiar formula for White. It’s a good segue from what he’s known for into the newer stuff he tries on Blunderbuss. It also features enough dismemberment to fill up an entire Friday The 13th franchise.
“Sixteen Saltines” is
basically a White Stripes song that would have felt right at home on Icky Thump. Personally I love that White decided to put this song on the album to show that he still loves this style of music and that will never change. It’s not the best song, but after all he’s given us, I won’t complain.
The quieter moments, like the title track, are where I start to lose interest a bit. Not that they aren’t well-written, but when you have such an amazing musical ability don’t hide it. Don’t put listeners to sleep to try to make a point. It gets a little better on the piano-driven follow up “Hypocritical Kiss.” Still not very exciting, but interesting.
“Weep Themselves To Sleep” is a stronger display of what I think White was going for, mixing blues, rock, and a little jazz together to create his “sound.” It’s the strongest song lyrically and a nice look into White’s brain.
No one can blow the shows or throw the boness that break your nose like I can
The men who fall so deep in love they start to weep themselves to sleep can
and men who fight the world who love the girls that try to hold their hands behind them
and won’t be left behind by time or any rules that try to bind them
To this point, a lot has been made about the subject of the record. Many think that Blunderbuss is a response to his divorce from former model/singer/Third Man Records artist Karen Elson. Listening to the album, I can’t say that they’re wrong. I also don’t agree with that assessment. My theory, based on an interview with White for NME magazine, is that he’s really trying to deal with the breakup of The White Stripes. In it, he says that the band was the most important thing to ever happen to him. His divorce-well, it wasn’t even his first divorce. Great artists like White generally don’t stay married for long. Exceptions exist, of course, but for the most part men and women who are really at the top of their artistic field are such tireless workers and perfectionists that they don’t have the time to value romantic relationships they way an average person would. Nothing is as important as the work. Hell, when White and Elson got divorced they invited all their friends over to their home for a big party. I’m sure he’s not happy that they’re divorced, but I don’t think he has an album worth of angst pent up either.
His band on the other hand, which he says was the most important thing, I could see a record about that. In that interview he mentions how stubborn Meg was, and how infuriating she could be. His declaration that she was really in charge of The White Stripes had my jaw on the ground. I just couldn’t believe it. So, when I hear a song like missing pieces and he’s singing about having his arms and legs cut off, I see that as his saying everything that I was has been taken away from me. He tries to reclaim it with “Sixteen Saltines” and then goes off in his own direction after that to find his own voice again.
All that culminates in “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy.” where White sings:
Sometimes a cold shiver comes over me
And it turns me on when the song takes over me
But alright, I can’t fight it the odds are against me
But I can’t sit still
Because I know that I will
And you’ll be watching me girl, takin’ over the world
Let the stripes unfurl, gettin’ rich singin’ “Poor boy, boy”
And I’ll be comin’ to play, I do it every day
And the title will stay, Hip Eponymous Poor Boy, boy
Blunderbuss is not a perfect album, far from it. But it’s better than I expected. Honestly, I’d take decent or average Jack White records 9 times out of ten against most of the stuff being produced today. Yes he relies heavily on a formula he’s been perfecting over the last decade, but why fix what ain’t broken. There are some subtle changes, like the backup singers and the frequency of piano and organ, but I welcome those additions. White fans obviously are going to grab this immediately when it comes out next week (though I’m guessing a lot of you already have it). If you’ve never liked White with The Raconteurs, White Stripes, or the atrocious Dead Weather (I’m sorry but that band did NOT work), you’re not gonna find anything here that will change your mind.