I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the ex-White Stripes main man Jack White. Tracks such as Blue Orchid and My Doorbell showed off his true potential, mixing left-field originality with contemporary sounds, to create the most unique rock band of the last twenty years. However, too often he didn’t fully commit to his ambitious ideas, so that he ended up creating songs that where neither here-nor-there. Personally, I found these moments to be too big of a problem for me to truly love the White Stripes, meaning I’ve always had to pick through the clutter to find the gold.
After The White Stripes ended in 2011, Jack White turned his attention to his solo career and promptly released his first record, Blunderbuss, in 2012. Tracks like Freedom at 21, I’m Shakin’ and the title song Blunderbuss held up to the substantial legacy created by the White Stripes, whilst also managing to push his musical boundaries. Many solo artists fail to live up to the expectation created by the bands that elevated into their solo career, but Jack White managed to avoid this common trap and excel in creating a special record that I appreciated much more than any album produced by The White Stripes.
Last week Jack White unveiled Just One Drink; the third song to be heard from his upcoming second solo record, Lazaretto. Whilst it’s not his most revolutionary track, it is a traditional rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse, with plenty of swing provided by a thumping piano backdrop. If there was one complaint I could make, it would be that the layered vocals of the chorus and the second verse sound too cluttered; almost like the two voices are fighting for dominance.
However, the other two tracks to be heard from the album so far are much more adventurous, and dare I say it, flawless. High Ball Stepper is an instrumental which cycles through contrasting sections of intensely overdriven riffs, layers of effects, haunting vocal chants and piano tomfoolery, turning one simple riff into a orchestra of noise and beauty. The title track Lazaretto continues in this vein; White’s frantic vocals remind of White Stripes’ Icky Thump and the track is crammed full with guitar experimentation and even makes use of strings.
It appears that in his post-White Stripes days, Jack White has been freed from the confines of fans’ expectation, allowing himself to release records that see him finally fully committing himself to his experimentation, both in terms of instrumentation and genre. The results so far have been impressive and have gone a long way to remove the hate from my love-hate relationship.
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