Saying that Jack White’s career has been illustrious would be an understatment. The man has established a neo-legend status that puts him up there with greats like Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan. The White Stripes were an integral part of the new “garage rock” movement that saved rock and roll in the early ‘00s, while White then went on to find success with the Racontuers and Dead Weather. Always sharing the spotlight, White was the guy that was part of a band of equals. Now, with the release of his first solo EP, Blunderbuss, you may wonder if White thinks he has something to prove, but if you’ve been pondering this…you’re wrong.
Blunderbuss was a conceived accident, stemming from Wu-Tang member RZA missing his recording sessions. From this mishap, White penned and recorded the thirteen tracks that, in his own words, “could only be presented under my [Jack White] name.” These songs, which heed influence from Elton John to Muddy Waters, are White grabbing the reigns and going full speed.
The album is really White’s take on the late ‘60s/early ‘70s southern rock, which only continues to separate him from his past work. He seems to be 36 going on 70, cutting the ties from the White Stripes, Raconteurs, and Dead Weather with one swipe. Tracks like “Missing Pieces” and “Freedom at 21” are raucous, both classically and progressively. What has remained is a Jack White who is so sure of himself, that each track is a creative epic in itself. His essential peddal distortions are accented by both a piano and a keyboard and an all-too familiar bass line that is like a slow burn.
Lyrically, the doors are darkened with talk of divorce, love, and personal demons, but with a smirk and a snarl. “Hypocrticial Kiss” features White howling “Who the hell’s impressed by you?!” while the album’s farewell track “Take Me With You When You Go” repeats, “I’ve got nothing keeping me here.” Jack White never appeared to be that musician who’s authenticness was questioned, and that doesn’t change on Blunderbuss.
While the record is a Jack White rock record, his Nashville established swagger does creep in. From electric guitars and peddal distortions come sort of cabaret/saloon sing-alongs in the form of tracks like “Hip Eponymous Poor Boy” and “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep.” While White’s inner honky-tonk blues unleashes itself on “I’m Shakin’” and “Trash Tongue Talker.” The songs shouldn’t fit, yet they do, but their initial sound is jolting and not what would be synonymous with a Jack White album.
But maybe that’s the whole point. Blunderbuss’ lead single, “Love Interruption” wasn’t what anyone expected, yet it works and it’s perfect. These songs could very well be what you’d imagine White strumming on his acoustic guitar on his front porch, if that’s the kind of thing Jack White does. But no one really knows the method to his madness. He’s influenced by music way before his time, but manages to keep it fresh while staying 5 steps ahead of his own generation. You could argue that he’s more of an enigma, but Blunderbuss is relatable, somewhat gentle, if not “mainstream.” With White knowing that he has, more or less, conquered the music world, what’s left to prove? Oh yeah, nothing.