Wednesday, 25 April 2012

On Jack White, Me and Blunderbuss (A Review)

It's like meeting an old friend.

Yeah, I know that's a cliché way to put it but what the hell, it's true.

You know how this happens...with your friends as well as with your artists: they are amazing, you love them, you spend a lot of time with them but then for some reason (or no reason at all) you start growing apart. And then...months or years later you get in touch with them and you realise why you wanted to be friends with them/fans of them in the first place.

Me and Jack met 9 years ago. Nope, I'm not one of the fans who'd come on board with the very first White Stripes album, I came after reading a very positive review of Elephant in a Czech music magazine. I'd discovered David Bowie and Kate Bush just the year before and at 15/16 I was hungry for more great, exciting music. So without even having listened to the album before buying it, I just took the money I'd gotten from my grandmother and bought it. From then on we were almost inseparable. In fact, the last time I saw my grandmother (still that year) I listened to the album on my discman on my way to and from the visit.

I tried to be as enthusiastic about The Raconteurs when they came on but I suppose I seem to find a special bond with duos, and any four-piece band which is not The Beatles, has a harder time with me (just ask The Killers). I love many of The Raconteurs' songs though, and in fact, Carolina Drama is one of my all time favourite songs. The moment I lost touch with Jack came with The Dead Weather. Their first album underwhelmed me, and I didn't even given a listen to the second one yet. I sort of knew of Jack's other projects and other stuff (amazingly I only learned about his divorce a few months ago...so much for me and gossip) but it wasn't until Love Interruption emerged this year I actually started to pay attention.

(Just to make it clear I never stopped listening to The White Stripes or certain Raconteurs songs. Therefore last year's inevitable split of The White Stripes made me quite sad and also contributed to me tuning out from all things New Jack.)

Love Interruption sounded "quite good" at first but the song has, over time, completely wormed itself into my brain, in a good way. After hearing Sixteen Saltines I started to be cautiously excited but still, when I gave the album the first listen - through iTunes last week - I still didn't expect anything better than a solid album with a few songs I'll like and a few I'll be indifferent about. I'm so glad I didn't read any (rave) reviews beforehand, it allowed my excitement from Blunderbuss to be 100% mine, uninfluenced, and raw.

What can I say, I love it. It almost feels like Jack took everything that ever worked in his musical output and put it there. It feels like a best of album.

His bewilderment with women, guitar squealing, piano (there's quite a lot of it here...since I prefer piano to guitars I approve!), hypnotic guitars, country, blues, the fact he's a big weirdo, that he likes to fuck with people, tender acoustic moments, funny accents, and also a cover of a cool 1960's song. It's all there,and it works. It works at first listen and it works on the 20th listen.

The stand-outs for me, right now, (besides Love Interruption and Sixteen Saltines): Weep Themselves to Sleep (hello gorgeous piano!), Freedom at 21 (I saw a feminist flipping over the lyrics, not sure why exactly), Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy (damn catchy), I'm Shakin' (better than the original, though I'm disappointed "noivous" was not Jack's thing but in fact already in the original), Trash Tongue Talker (hopefully more of a story than biography? the piano rocks here though) and Take Me With You When You Go (feels like good 5 songs in one, ending the album on a ecstatic high). It's silly writing about stand-out songs when it comes to this album though. I could easily name the rest of the album here as well.

I've seen people call Jack White a god, genius and living legend, I've seen people cry he's overrated. I think he probably gets misunderstood by both of these opposing parties. Let's face it, he didn't invent rock, and he can't quite single-handedly save it (if it, indeed, needs saving). Also dismissing Jack White's songs as retro is too simple. More than anything they sound like Jack from the 90's and onwards is covering a Jack who wrote this all 60 years ago.

I personally believe, that with Blunderbuss, Jack may have finally earned himself the "legend" label. If once in a while he takes a break from doing his various all-star collaborations and delivers an album like this, he might make it to a legitimate god by the time he's 50.

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