Apr 30, 2012

Album Review: Jack White's "Blunderbuss"

The always strange yet shining hope in today's often bleak and barren rock music scene, Jack White released his debut solo album Blunderbuss April 24, 2012. The Detroit, Michigan native has made a name for himself in successful bands like The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather but through his own label, Third Man Records produced his efforts of going at it on his own.

1) "Missing Pieces" - A great opener that really introduces you to Jack White's style if you've never heard him before. This track is more along the lines of The White Stripes than The Raconteurs or The Dead Weather, which is perfectly cool with me. It's got a really cool sound to it and just overall a great tune. Much like most of the songs on this album, the lyrics don't really convey any direct message or story but sounds cool in the scheme of the song. Fun music, and a good way to kick start the album, but missing a certain something to push it past 4.5 / 5.

2) "Sixteen Saltines" - The second single off the album and the track that drew me into buying Blunderbuss. The music video is particularly messed up, but the song is all kinds of awesome. Jack White knows how to pace out those special beat drops, vocal changes, and guitar solos. The best pure rock song I've heard in a long time. 5 / 5.

3) "Freedom At 21" - An epically bluesy rock song that shows just how smart a musician Jack White is. Every instrument gets due attention and has their strengths emphasizes and weaknesses hidden. A far more music-driven song than vocally, and White gets a little Hendrix-experimental at times, but it completely works. 5 / 5.

4) "Love Interruption" - A really dark and cynical love song but beautifully crafted. It's not a song to rock out to, as it's done mostly with a flute and an acoustic guitar, but it's really cool in a macho kind of way. Basically boiled down to demonizing cupid, but it only makes Jack White that much cooler. 5 / 5.

5) "Blunderbuss" - An interesting song that doesn't quite live up to the first four tracks of the album, but isn't terrible by any means. It's a bizarre hybrid between early White Stripes like "You've Got Her In Your Pocket" or "There's No Home For You Here" off the Elephant album, but mixed with a country ballad. Kind of hard to wrap your head around, but not hard to sit through and enjoy. 4 / 5.

6) "Hypocritical Kiss" - I can't say this song works for me. It's an experimental tune with most of the music coming from a drum and a piano, but the soundmixing just seems subpar. The piano is too loud and Jack's voice is too quiet, which seems like someone in production could have fixed. Just doesn't come off that effective and is pretty skippable. 2 / 5.

7) "Weep Themselves To Sleep" - Another piano song, but this time they've got the volume equalized so you can make out Jack's voice a little better. Jack White rocks the ivory keys in this track with a rock n' roll passion like Beethoven. The song has some pretty cool lyrics as well, but it still feels like Jack White needs a little more practice with this new art of piano-rock before he'll have it mastered. A great comeback from the album-middle-trench that was "Hypocritical Kiss", but was slightly hindered by experimental guitar riffs and something powerful missing in the vocals to cement this song as an epic experience. Sure to be a killer at live performances, but on the album only worthy of a 4 / 5 score.

8)  "I'm Shakin'" - This song isn't going to be be everyone's favorite, but I love it because Jack White has so much fun with it. This is actually a cover of a late fifties/early sixties doo-wop song written by Rudy Toombs. Hilarious yet enjoyable to hear Jack White's gritty, grungy vibe on a 50's doo-wop; 5 / 5.

9) "Trash Tongue Talker" - Another track that relies heavily on piano, which maybe Jack White thoroughly enjoys but isn't something I'm looking for in a Jack White album, or something I find myself particularly enjoying outside of the high energy, "Weep Themselves to Sleep". While not a terrible song, it's completely skippable to me. 2 / 5.

10) "Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy" - At this point, I can't tell what Jack White's game is. It seems like he did the first half of the album to give his die hard fans what they were looking for, and made the second half of the album to show off his piano skills. This song is like a complete Billy Joel track. I like Billy Joel, but as good as Jack White is, I don't want or expect or really enjoy him as the second coming of Billy Joel. I wouldn't mind if I went to a Jack White concert and he performed some of his piano heavy tracks, but if that was going to be the majority of his performance I might not attend at all. A generous 4 / 5, because while it wasn't what I want from a Jack White song, it was pretty good for a Billy Joel song.

11) "I Guess I Should Go To Sleep" - Gosh darn it, Jack! Enough with the piano! We get it, you're good at most things! But I'm not feeling it. I like the message and tone of this song, but it's completely harshed by the piano emphasis and music as a whole. A skippable 3 / 5.

12) "On And On And On" - Wow, a graceful return from the piano plunder of the last few tracks! It's an interesting try at a radio pop single, but it works just as well if not better than a lot of other radio pop singles out there. This could be a definite movie or television soundtrack song and I enjoyed it a great deal. 5 / 5.

13) "Take Me With You When You Go" - Sadly, not a strong close to the album. As though it's a summary of the album as a whole, the music is piano, guitar, and drums. And then I think some fiddle. Not something I would listen to in my free time and a sharp fall from the previous track. An easily dismissible 2 / 5.

My Highlights:
"Sixteen Saltines", "Freedom at 21", "Love Interruption", "I'm Shakin'", and "On And On And On".

Overall Rating:
Averaging all the scores on this album together comes out to an uneven 3.8 / 5, which, given my penchant for scoring in .25 increments could be rounded up or down. So using my reviewer overall big picture brownie points powers, I'm disappointing going to round down here. I suggest everyone purchase the singles off this album off of iTunes or Amazon, as Jack White is an amazing talent and produces some quality music. Unfortunately, he chose to utilize half this album to show off his piano skills which comes off clashing to everything I love about Jack White and his music. Half an album is a lot of tracks wasted. But then, if you find this album on the cheap then it wouldn't be so detrimental to buy the whole thing. Total score:

3.75 / 5

image from Amazon

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