Review of Jack White’s Blunderbuss
Considering how many bands Jack White’s been in over the past decade, you wonder why he even felt the need for a solo album. But after dissolving his main act, The White Stripes, last year, White chose to go on his own. The result is one of the most diverse, intense, and ultimately rewarding albums in a discography full of classics.
In addition to splitting up the Stripes, White also went through a divorce last year, and it certainly shows on the album. On the first half in particular, the feeling of loss and frustration with the female sex is a recurring theme. On the lead single “Love Interruption,” White states that he wants love to “grab my fingers gently/slam them in a doorway/and put my face to the ground,” while on “Freedom at 21″ he says of his object of love madness: “she don’t care what kind of wounds she’s inflicting on me.” So, no matter how upbeat the guy might seem in interviews, it’s safe to say he was pretty pissed for a good bit of 2011.
In the hands of a lesser artist, White’s rage might come off as misogynistic, but much like Elvis Costello at his best, you get a clear sense that White’s anger is directed at individual people and situations, and not at women as a whole. White’s spent a decade playing the role of an enigmatic, unapproachable rock star, and Blunderbuss is by far the most vulnerable work he’s ever made. We finally get some insight into what actually goes into the man’s head. And it turns out, he’s as cranky and frustrated as any of us.
But, of course, an entire album of misery and moping would be a bit dull (unless it’s a Morrissey album), which is why things get considerably more loose in the record’s latter half. The energetic piano-based rocker “Weep Themselves To Sleep” — which would have been right at home on 2005′s Get Behind Me Satan – is lighter than anything that proceeds, and gives the indication that things are about to perk up a bit. That feeling continues on the excellent blues-rocker “I’m Shakin’,” which recalls White’s bluesy roots, and feels like something the Stones might have done during the Exile On Main Street sessions.
Later on, White’s sense of humor shows up on the catchy, McCartneyish “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy,” and by the time things wrap up with the singalong “Take Me With You Go,” you get the feeling that White has snapped out of his rut, and is ready to fun again.
This album succeeds partially because of its willingness to try out multiple styles, but mostly because of White’s willingness to reveal himself through his lyrics. The songs on here resonate deeper than on anything White has done before, because you get the sense that he is not censoring himself anyway. When the catharsis is replaced with upbeat, bluesy tunes in the record’s second half, you get the feeling that he needs a little relief. After going through a lot of shit (and writing some intense songs about it), Jack White is finally ready to rock again. He’s certainly earned it.