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Jack White's solo debut can't match past prowess

By Joe O'Leary
On April 26, 2012

Jack White is the closest thing rock music has to a renaissance man. Rising to fame in the early 2000s with his garage-rock duo White Stripes, he then branched off with forays into southern rock with The Raconteurs from 2006-2008, then alt-rock with the Dead Weather starting in 2009. No matter who he's lined up with, the man runs on rock and roll.

Apparently, three bands just aren't enough to contain the man, as he's broken off from the Dead Weather for his solo debut, "Blunderbuss." White's problem, of course, is that he's left such a wide-ranging, impressive discography that the second-tier songs on "Blunderbuss" just don't hold a candle to what's come before them. They're serviceable, sure, and some are almost fantastic; unfortunately, though it's listenable, the album just isn't very vital stacked up against "White Blood Cells" or "Consolers of the Lonely."

Which isn't to say it doesn't start out strong. The album's front-loaded with some fun songs that have some bluesy groove and Raconteurs-esque harmonies, as well as White's classic guitar lines that jump frenetically up and down the fretboard. "Missing Pieces" is a fun jam with a great organ solo (a White album hasn't had this much ivory-tickling since the Stripes' "Get Behind Me Satan"), while "Sixteen Saltines" has some enjoyably nonsensical lyrics over some crunching chords; it sounds like Meg White's basic-but-hearty drumlines had a baby with the Raconteurs' folk/blues style.

That's the issue with "Blunderbuss," though; so much of White's former work is audible across the album that it just sounds like a not-entirely-successful blending of the three groups. Most of its entertainingly complicated lyrics sound like "Icky Thump"-era Stripes songs, and while there's some interesting new directions like some country twang on the album-title-borrowing "Blunderbuss," the album doesn't go far enough to sound unique.

"Hypocritical Kiss," with a huge emphasis on piano and White's layered vocals, is the album's highlight, as it actually progresses into a complicated, enjoyable melody with a complicated drumline and some great swagger in White's vocals, and that attitude carries over to "Weep Themselves To Sleep." However, the latter half of the album falls well short of its promising start, as when he's not aping early Stripes low-fi sound on tracks like "I'm Shakin," White relies far too much on puns and tongue-twisters on second-rate cuts like "Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy." The tracks can be jaunty, poppy or country-fried, but they're not substantial. It's hard to get over the fact that while they're not bad, if White had paired up with Meg White, Brendan Benson or Alison Mossheart, they'd be even better. As good a musician as White is, "Blunderbuss" will leave his fans wanting more, but not in a good way. Instead, they'll be wishing he were back with one of his many bands.

 


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