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Jack White - Blunderbuss

2012-05-30 09:05
jack white
A blunderbuss is an old type of gun with a wide mouth, firing many bullets or small shot at short range. This image of a gun with a wide mouth reminds me of the same wide mouth of an old record player's speakerphone. And if you've watched the documentary, This Might Get Loud, where Jack White, Jimmy Page and The Edge discuss the guitar, you'll remember that White is very much a fan of the old school – vintage guitars, amps, tape machines and record players.

Blunderbuss is White's debut solo album after six albums with The White Stripes, two albums with The Dead Weather and two albums with The Raconteurs.

The album as a whole will remind you of The White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan where half of the songs are predominately driven by acoustic guitars, organs, pianos and electric pianos. And when White's all familiar crusty guitar makes an appearance, it serves as a show stopper.   

Album opener "Missing Pieces" kicks off with an angst driven Rhodes piano that builds up towards a slow release followed by fast phrased lyrics continuing the angst theme: "I was in the shower so I could not tell my nose was bleeding / Dripped down my body to the floor right below my feet / Looked down in the mirror at my face / I thought I had a disease." As the song progresses it becomes clear that a woman is physically and metaphorically stealing body parts from the narrator, hence the title "Missing Pieces".
"Sixteen Saltines" throws a bunch of calculated rock punches at the opposite sex with lyrics like: "Spike heels make a hole in a life boat" and "lipstick, eyelash, broke mirror, broken home". It's some good old dirty garage rock at its best.

The bouncy jungle shuffle of the drums on "Freedom of 21" has a drunken shadow tail of stereo slap back delays that sounds like a ghost train on uneven tracks. The guitar strums a monotonous countdown riff and just before you want to skip the track it builds up towards a climax of stereo collages with two of White's duelling vocal tracks, competing with each other. The whiney pitch-climbing guitar solos do the same and you're getting two Jack White's in one song, all because of good old stereo.

This basic old school studio trickery is applied on most of the songs and offers the listener a more fully orchestrated production than The White Stripes' simplistic mind set.

The first single of the album, "Love Interruption", features Ruby Amanfu on vocals and starts off with the same piano hook as Dusty Springfield's "Son of a preacher man". The concept of love gets deconstructed in a stripped down duet with acoustic guitars and pianos.

Tracks "Blunderbuss" and "Hypocritical Kiss" are slower, demands closer attention and offer no initial quick fixes, and thus they get skipped. And if it's a fix you're looking for, "Weep Themselves to Sleep" is the real deal. It instantly grabs you with its dramatic piano and drum breakdowns and when White opens with: "No one can blow the shows / Or throw the bones / That break your nose / Like I can", you're hooked! By the time the chorus declares: "And men who fight the world / And try to love the girls that try to / Hold their hands behind them", it's clear that up to this point the golden thread and theme of this album is a flux between love and unorthodox gender roles.

On "I’m Shaking" White pays tribute to Little Willie John's RnB hit. The slick claps and saucy female back-up singers' "oohs" and "ahs" sugar coats this timeless blues boogie. Contrary to the up-beat groove of the song, it's actually about the fear of a woman.

Towards the end White sings: "Samson was a mighty good man / strongest in his day", then the female back-up singers (which includes White's ex-wife, Karen Elson) take over with: "and along came Delilah and clipped his wig" and White concludes: "and it looks like you took me the same old way / so I'm nervous / oh and I'm shaking". Using a cover song as a practical, contradictory personal meta-narrative just to fuck with the tabloids? Yeah, why not?

White definitely gets personal on Blunderbuss, but doesn't give anything away blatantly. Stereotypical gender roles get cross-dressed and hierarchies of love get shattered.

Almost every review on this album raves about it and it's as if most reviewers are more stars-struck with White's eccentric facade than the actual album itself. The fact that something real and authentic makes an appearance in the current mainstream music climate where everything is overproduced, styled to death or just plain mediocrity with a big marketing budget, may also be the reason for these reviews.

Blunderbuss is a good solid album, but it ain't no Dark side of the Moon (Pink Floyd), Nevermind (Nirvana) or White album (The Beatles), like most reviewers would like to think.

Listen to title track of Blunderbuss here:

White definitely gets personal on Blunderbuss, but doesn't give anything away blatantly.

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