Review: Jack White – Blunderbuss
Published on May 1st, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
The debut solo album by Jack White, he of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs, is bound to receive plenty of praise for its raw, uninhibited sound and whatnot, but while his ever-frantic vocal delivery remains compelling, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of the songwriting there isn’t really much to crow about. This could be salvaged by lyrical ingenuity, but sadly there’s not much of that either; it’s certainly not at all bad, but is raw energy really enough these days? It serves its purpose, especially in a live setting, but listening to this in conjunction with Rufus Wainwright’s new album…well, there’s only one winner in terms of all-round musical ingenuity and creativity.
Having said all that, this is for the most part enjoyable fare; “Missing Pieces” is a sunny stomper that wigs out on golden glows of electric piano, “Sixteen Saltines” works out pretty well as a kind of halfway point between The Dismemberment Plan and last-album Supergrass (without being anywhere near as good as either, mind), “Love Interruption” is like a classic ’60s psych-rock number performed acoustically with funky clarinet assistance, and the title track is a nicely lilting pedal steel ditty, albeit one at which you start to realise that White is starting to sound more like Mick Jagger with each passing song.
In turn, “Hypocritical Kiss” brings to your attention the resolute obviousness of pretty much every chord progression here, although in mitigation White’s terrific vocal delivery is highly effective damage limitation. “Weep Themselves to Sleep” is a well executed piano stomper (there’s that word again), “I’m Shakin'” brings The Mamas & the Papas classic “Creeque Alley” discomfortingly close to Jet territory, “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” has a great title but is merely an okay song, while “Trash Tongue Talker” and “I Guess I Should Go to Sleep” are too indulgent, too steeped in attempted authenticity to sustain interest levels without the kind of attention-grabbing lyrical twist that just isn’t forthcoming.
The Abbey Road-esque titular refrains of “On and On and On” work quite well, before closer “Take Me With You When You Go” reveals one whacking great missed trick by being by some distance the best track on the album, the quizzical groove, screeching fiddle and multi-layered close harmony vocals creating a fabulously hazily-drunken effect. Once it’s broken out into berserk acid-scuzz-funk, you might find yourself wondering: why on earth didn’t he do more like this? It even ends sounding a bit like the great Os Mutantes, and this is quite the unexpected revelation.
In summary, Blunderbuss is comprised of twelve okay-to-middling tracks leading up to one absolute monster of a tune. Blueprint established for album two? We can only hope.
Rocksucker says: Two and a Half Quails out of Five!