Review: Jack White's new album is a mixed bag of awesome weirdness

2018-03-20 13:56
jack white

New York - For his third solo album, Jack White, the mad scientist of rock, got out of his comfort zone. Mind you, his comfort zone would make a lot of musicians go insane.

White recorded in New York and Los Angeles for the first time and sought out musicians he hadn't worked with before — some he hadn't ever even met. Then he listened to what happened.

Boarding House Reach is the result and it's thrilling stuff, but more than a little disorienting. White's trademark yowl and fuzzy guitar are firmly in place but then, suddenly, there might be a conga drum solo. Or a synth riff. Or a face-melting distorted chorus. You quickly get the sense that this is what the inside of Jack White's head sounds like.

The 13-track Frankenstein-like album doesn't always work, but when it does, it's like a jolt of electricity, mixing hip-hop, gospel, blues, country and hard rock. "Forgive me and save me from myself," White warns us in one lyric.

The successes include the funky, hard-rocking tunes Over and Over and Over and Corporation. Ice Station Zebra is brilliant, but in a bizarre way. Many of the album's best moments are drum-led, extended propulsive riffs, like on Respect Commander.



White's collaborators include drummer Louis Cato, bassists Charlotte Kemp Muhl and Neon Phoenix, and keyboardists Neal Evans and Quincy McCrary. They've helped him make the weirdest album of his career. The lyrics are as oddball as the music, going from quoting the baby book Goodnight Moon to name-checking Italian luxury car maker Isotta Fraschini.

Some of the experiments should probably have been left for some future box set of outtakes dedicated to crazed White fans, including Abulia and Akrasia in which singer-songwriter C.W. Stoneking adds silly spoken-word verses. Get In the Mind Shaft is clumsy, albeit fascinating.

There's a good song somewhere in Hypermisophoniac but it's drowned out by about three others. There's really no song in Everything You've Ever Learned and Ezmerelda Steals the Show is, as one line goes, "totally absurd."

White dips into country on What's Done Is Done, but it seems more like he's mocking the genre this time. He swipes melody from Antonin Dvorak for the final tune, Humoresque, as if classical music was one more thing he wanted to mess with.

God bless, Jack White. And also save us from him, too.

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