Artist: Jack White
Label: Third Man Records
Jack White isn’t the type of rock star who stays in one place for too long. If anything, it’s a bit of a surprise that it even took the newly divorced blues extraordinaire this long to release a solo album.
While White’s side ventures (The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs) were focused on tackling opposite extremes, his solo debut “Blunderbuss” is more cavalier in its approach, culminating in an album that sounds more like a summary of White’s career thus far than evidence of progress.
The record’s opener, the upbeat blues ditty “Missing Pieces,” dismisses any doubts about whether White can still churn out the elegant roots-rock numbers that defined much of his work with the Raconteurs and, to a lesser extent, The White Stripes. But aside from a few detours —like the high-powered “Sixteen Saltines” and the riff-centric “Freedom at 21” — Nashville’s most relevant resident celebrity prefers to keep things tame (for the most part) this time around.
The pair of acoustic ballads, “Love Interruption” and the title track, operate as the centerpiece of the album with White lovelorn and lamenting on the former as he croons: “I want love to roll me over slowly / to stick a knife inside me / and twist it all around.” And the title track that follows serves more as a response as White sings, sounding more personal than ever: “I laid you down and touched you / like the two of us both needed / safe to say that others might not approve / of this and pleaded.”
But “Blunderbuss” isn’t all heartbreak and hell. There are plenty of fun digressions that include feverish breakdowns (“Take Me with You When You Go”) and of course shrill, highly compressed guitar solos. From the dirty bar blues of his Little Willie John cover, “I’m Shakin’,” to the “White Album”-esque “Trash Tongue Talker,” White, despite his preoccupation with his failed marriage, makes sure to pencil in a little time for frivolity into his schedule.
Perhaps the album’s truly revealing moment comes with the trippy “On and On and On,” where White confesses “they want me the same / I look at myself and I want to / just cover my eyes / and give me myself a new name.” If that sounds like too much self-pity for you, don’t fret because that’s about as bad as it gets.
However, in spite of all the beautiful pedal steels and baroque piano, many of the songs on “Blunderbuss” seem to lack a particular charm. While the album isn’t a dud by any measure, it does underwhelm. But if White’s track record is any indication, it won’t be long until he’s back with his next installment.
2 1/2 out of 4 stars
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