In 2008, while filming the documentary It Might Get Loud, Jack White wrote a song called ‘Fly Farm Blues’, composed it and recorded it, all in ten minutes. By that logic, it would take the man roughly a couple of hours at most to belt out one hell of a record. So, I waited patiently for the much-awaited Jack White solo album. Though it took around four more years, Blunderbuss makes sure that the wait was more than worth it.
Jack White is the man behind acts like The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and more recently, The Dead Weather. Anyone who has heard these acts will agree that White is one of the best producers around today, and also one of the very few who has managed to hold his own and stick to his roots amidst a flurry of commercialized music. They would also probably accede to the fact that his music has a characteristic raucous sound to it, which has persisted throughout his career (go listen to Icky Thump, in case you need a little convincing). With that being said, I was surprised, albeit pleasantly, to notice that Blunderbuss is much more toned down than all of his previous projects. However, after numerous listens, it still has the unmistakeable stamp of Jack White’s genius.
Here are the tracks that stand out:
A very curious choice for a first single, it caught me completely off guard. While I expected a catchy, dirty riff with heavy progressive drums and rasping vocals, ‘Love Interruption’ is strikingly minimal, devoid of any percussion and the vocals are accompanied solely by an acoustic guitar and an electric piano. However, closer attention justifies that exhibiting intricate musical skills isn’t always needed to make a great song. Ruby Amanfu’s backing vocals, resonating beautifully with White’s voice, lend an ethereal feel to this otherwise simple song.
Freedom at 21
A scintillating intro on the drums sets off this typical Jack White composition. I never thought I’d hear myself saying this, but it is one of the “harder tracks” on the record. Just in case the new, serene Jack White is getting a bit much, wait till the guitar solo hits you. p.s. I came across this live performance of ‘Freedom at 21’ with Jack White backed by an all girl band. One of my twisted fantasies come true, I must admit. That beast on the drums is mine.
This one is my favourite simply because it is so damn playful. It is also the only cover on the album – a fitting tribute to the original version by Little Willie John (he first recorded the song ‘Fever’ before Peggy Lee made it famous). Despite not diverting much from the original, this version bears White’s signature sound with catchy riffs and that mischievous snarl. Even though he hasn’t done anything overtly spectacular, ‘I’m Shakin’’ is one of the most enjoyable covers I have heard in a long time.
As mentioned before, this album is unusually mellow, so don’t expect a ‘Seven Nation Army’ or ‘Steady as She Goes’, though the ‘Sixteen Saltines’ track is one of the few that comes close. The songs are folksy and the album is driven by consistently great and sensible lyrics. A lot of thought seems to have gone into lines that will stick with you long after (And I know that you’re mad at me, But if you’re thinking like that, I think you’ll see that you’re mad at you too, from ‘Hypocritical Kiss’). I often found myself marvelling over a great lyric, quietly whispering to myself, “Oh, well said, Jack. Well said.”
Blunderbuss appears to be more of a personal affair than White’s other endeavours. Most songs deal with love, or the disintegration of it, and I’d like to believe that White has made this album for himself and none else. It will take a while to understand this album, and to be completely honest, I’d still prefer to go back and listen to some of The Dead Weather. That said, Blunderbuss is still a masterpiece in its own right and if it takes you time to let the album sink in, believe me, it will be time well spent.