Jack White Review Royale: Total Blunderbliss

Jack White

Blunderbuss

Jack White, Blunderbuss, solo cover art, album cover, solo debut, piano player,

As a head of three major rock outfits (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather) and a long-time favorite all three of LxL’s constituents, Jack White (and his debut solo album Blunderbuss) is a natural to get our three-way review royale treatment. As arguably the most hyped release of 2012, the amount of discussion and hype surrounding an album such as this often gets so bloated that the album itself turns out to be a bit of a disappointment, and I will say that upon first listen I thought that may have been the case.  But Blunderbuss is not the sort of album that hits you over the head the first time you hear it (even if “Sixteen Saltines” does), but slowly crawls its way into your head and heart.

The question lied before its release as to where Blunderbuss would fit within the spectrum of Jack White sounds? Would it be the freewheeling classic rock of the Raconteurs? The sensual, smoky metal of the Dead Weather? Or the artsy minimalist blues of his staple band, the White Stripes? As much of a copout as this is, I would say he has pulled pretty equally from all three, but not in the ways you would expect. Blunderbuss carries the carefree rock attitude at times of the Raconteurs with some of the classic piano-driven story songs he did with that project (“Carolina Drama” being exhibit A).You can also definitely tell what he learned from being in a band with a female lead in Allison Mosshart in the Dead Weather, since the female voice and element is quite prominent on Blunderbuss. Finally a song like “Sixteen Saltines” is practically a refurbished version of the refrain on “Hardest Button to Button”, but for the most part, Blunderbuss doesn’t pull from the blues rock end of the White Stripes, but rather from the Stripes more subdued side with songs like “White Moon” and “I’m A Martyr for My Love for You”. Jack White wisely pulls elements from all three and adds a healthy dose of country songwriting and sensibility, something White has always worn extremely well to make a most impressive debut.

One of the things I love most about Blunderbuss is the incredible amount of musical ground he covers, yet the album flows seamlessly song to song and all of it is unmistakably Jack White. “Love Interruption” is an instantly classic country song minus the country twang and one of the best songs of the 2012. That’s preceded by “Freedom at 21” which is sort of a  strange, scatterbrain rap song filled with the quirkiest production and the most blistering guitar solo of Blunderbuss. Not to mention the Bo Diddley blues of “I’m Shakin’”, the ol’ timey country lullaby of “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep”, or the Eastern flavored-folk of “On and On and On”.

Unlike most albums, Blunderbuss’s second half is the better half and Jack at simply his best.  Hailing from Detroit Rock City, Jack White is best known for being arguably the most important guitar player of this generation, but Blunderbuss actually shines brightest with White’s piano play. “Trash Tongue Talker” has Jack doing his best impression of the recently passed Levon Helm vocal impression (legendary drummer/vocalist of the Band) over a classic rock & roll piano line and some grooving guitar play. “Hip [Eponymous] Poor Boy” is a joyful rag-time sing along led with some spirited fiddle play and trailing piano.  “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep” sounds like a classic country standard but is actually a Jack White original featuring roots revivalist Pokey LaFarge and his band, the South City Three. “Take Me With You When You Go” breezes along with a smattering of drums and violin over a simple piano phrase before kicking it up to fifth gear for the song and the album’s spectacular close.

All this to say, Blunderbuss is White’s best effort since the Stripes’ masterpiece Get Behind Me Satan, and only falls fourth in my list of favorite Jack White albums (in front of all Dead Weather and Raconteurs albums, and behind three Stripes albums in Get Behind Me Satan, White Blood Cells, and Elephant).

9.5/11

Can’t Miss: “Love Interruption”, “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy”, “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep”, “Take Me With You When You Go”

Can’t Hit: none

____________________________________________________________________________________

Austin’s Response

I can’t really disagree with Wes on too much of the above.  I guess the most flagrant statement above to me is that Icky Thump is somehow inferior to BlunderbussIcky Thump holds a special place in my heart and I think it compares favorably to every other White Stripes album.  As far as Blunderbuss goes?  I view it as a step behind the best of Jack White’s best work with The White Stripes, which is still to say that it is a very very good album.

More than anything, White’s latest stumbles out of the gate with the first few tracks, which in my opinion seem a little “retready”.  Maybe ol’ Jack just wanted to make the bridging the musical gap between White Stripes fans and Jack White fans a little bit easier.  Songs like “Sixteen Saltine” and “Missing Pieces” are fine in and of themselves.  I just feel like I’ve heard them before.

After the first few songs of “meh” material, White mellows out for possibly the best track of the year, “Love Interruption”.  Not one to normally pour over and dissect lyrics, “Love Interruption” managed to impress me in that area.  The warbled female vocals accenting White on this track help to fill out what is a fairly modest acoustic song.

Jack White, solo photo, messy long hair, RIP Levon Helm
He just wants to be the boy to warm your mother's heart.

But hasn’t that always been Jack White’s M.O.?  Take something simple or classic, infuse it with raw emotion and perfect musicianship, and add a few innovations to take it to the next level.  More than anything on Blunderbuss, Jack White seems to want to toy around with the piano.  Be it more classical arrangements (“Weep Themselves to Sleep”), or what can only be described as a honky-tonk banger (“Trash Tongue Talker”), White’s piano work shines like never before.

Blunderbuss may not ever be viewed as the pinnacle of his career, but it will universally be recognized as another important work from the greatest artist of our generation.  Hopefully Jack can keep it up for another 50 years.

9/11

Can’t Miss:  “Love Interruption”, “Hypocritical Kiss”, “Weep Themselves to Sleep”, “Trash Tongue Talker”, “On And On And On”

Can’t Hit:  “Missing Pieces”, “Sixteen Saltines”

___________________________________________________________________________

Todd’s Response

It almost seems ridiculous for three bloggers to do a review royale of this nature. Ultimately, the purpose of a royale should be to show an argument over an album, and why one party would think the album in question is worth more than a damn and why another would think less. However, I think we all knew going into this one that it would be hard to find ourselves splitting hairs (our taste with the overall album may not differ, but our taste within the album does). I think the truth of the matter is that we all just wanted to speak our mind over one of the rare artists that we essentially full-heartedly agree upon. Receiving this third in line makes it hard to do anything but simply add to the gush that has already been so thickly poured over Blunderbuss like maple syrup, so that is exactly what I shall do.

lxl's gush for jack, love jack white, jack white, breakfast, pancakes, syrup, maple syrup, blunderbuss
^Breakfast equivalent to LxL's gush for Jack

My orgasm a-la Blunderbuss began right about 2:00 minute marker into the first track. I like what Austin said about feeling like he has heard this track before, but where we disagree is that is what I love this about the song. Jack spends this time taking us on a little journey through his notorious and extensive past in music. Off the cuff, we hear a piano intro that sounds like it came straight off a Dead Weather album (Specifically Sea of Cowards). As soon as the verse hits, it’s like you were just skipped directly to a Raconteurs’ verse lead by Jack (some White Stripes examples could also be used here). Then, at 1:49, ever so subtly, we hear that brilliant guitar styling of a Whites Stripes solo. Nothing major; just enough to give it an edge. Almost as if Jack introduced the album to me by saying exactly in that moment, “See what I did there Todd? I just combined three of your favorite bands (all three of which I am in by the way) and rolled them into one song.” It was all downhill from here.

The next track, “Sixteen Saltines”, is almost like a slap in the face that he still can pull off White Stripes songs if he choses to do so. Moving from there into “Freedom 21” (which is one of my favorites on the album) was just all-out Blunder-bliss.  He uses studio tricks in this track, most obviously the hard left-to-right pans, in a way I feel I haven’t heard in years, and was most famously pioneered/perfected by The Beatles. At some points you literally have Jack playing two different guitars in each ear. It simply can’t get better than that.

^This is one Jack White track you MUST listen to with good headphones on (But get the real song, YouTube doesn’t have an HQ version)

He then slows things down with “Love Interruption” which doubles as a pitch perfect song, as well as a transition to the next phase of the album. I think what sets my interpretation of this album apart from Austin and Wes is that I think the album starts off with a bang, and although it changes gears, it’s not front heavy or back loaded. I think it’s great through and through. I love the balance and think it transitions perfectly from one gear to the next. The other guys covered the rest of the album pretty well, and I can’t find a reason to disagree with any other points they made.

Hearing Jack have total control, step out and experiment with some tracks, and still keep his influences priority is one of the greatest things to happen to music this year. I think Tom Waits’ last album was the last time I have been this infatuated and impressed with an album. Nothing I didn’t expect from Mr. Jack White.

10/11

Can’t Miss: “Freedom at 21”, “Love Interruption”, “I’m Shakin’”, “Trash Tongue Talker”, “Take Me With You When You Go”

Can’t Hit: none

__________________________________________________________________________

Wes’s  Rebuttal

Not much I can disagree with you two about but to say if people think three people gushing over Jack White for an entire review is a bit much, I can’t imagine what they will think of tomorrow’s list (a full on “White Out” so to speak).

Aggregate Rating: 9.5/11

 

Added Note:  Check out our list of  Top Ten Jack White songs, and dare to disagree with us.

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Author: Wes

Hoosier. Writer. Music Buff. Media Man. Tourist. Polar Bear.

113 thoughts on “Jack White Review Royale: Total Blunderbliss”

  1. Reading this, I felt as if we were all in a basement somewhere shouting nonsense at each other. Todd was actually standing… long pointy finger extended… and Knepp was prodding him like cattle. (Pooh bear is just being poor bear in this scenario) All in all, I think the record is one that should be disected and it’s more-than-interesting to read what you all have to say. Really, because of my initial uncertainty.

    Wes said something that I couldn’t agree with more. This album didn’t overwhelm me in the slightest upon first listen. Sure, there were a handful of tracks (Love Interuption, Poor Boy) that I definitely wanted to listen to again… but it’s almost like I was unsure of what to expect. I got into Jack White slightly late (surprising, I know) and fell in love with Icky Thump and then literally everything he has done since. Going back and hearing older White Stripes has been an absolute treat. But, this was his debut solo album and I had no idea what direction he would take.

    Todd made a point that this album almost has chapters. White blends the sounds of all his masterpieces beautifully and the music flows, naturally, perfectly. By the time you get to Love Interuption, and then the title track, Blunderbuss, next… you have gone through a wide range of Jack White’s skill-set. It’s quite astounding actually.

    Much like Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”, my initial reaction was less-than-ehhh. Point in case to give something another chance. This album is better than great and Rainbows is knocking on the door of a top 10 album in my book. I would say there could be a lull or two in Blunderbuss, but that is just splitting hairs. This album takes a massive Todd-sized poop on another highly anticipated album this year, El Camino, which turned out to be very average to me.

    Jack White has done it again. Best musician of our generation.

  2. I am a huge fan. I think Jack is undoubtably the greatest musician of our time. He is full of passion and creativity and you can see that in his collaborations with other artists. His company Third Man Records represents some insanely talented artist.

    1. If you ever get the chance to check out Third Man Records in Nashville, it is a pretty cool little place. Thanks for the comment

      1. I don’t buy anything but Vinyl anymore. I love it most (= and the best part is that most times they give you an mp3 download code along with the album now so you can have it handing on all your devices as well.

  3. “My orgasm a-la Blunderbuss began right about 2:00 minute marker into the first track.”

    LOVE it! Loved the multiple perspectives here and very interesting insights.

    This may not be my “type” of music…but based on your review royale, I may just have to try it out!

    :)

    1. Thanks for reblogging us, love the idea of an Album Club (although I guess that’s kind of what the writers here are, just never thought to call it that)…I love watching White talk about his creative process. He is so measured and introspective.

  4. I agree its the most anticipated release of the year. If you say its better than any albums of the Raconteurs and Dead Weather, than that’s more than enough recommendation. I love gushing reviews if the material delivers. Thanks for the reviews. (Plural!)

    1. Glad we could be of some service. I personally think Blunderbuss is better than the Dead Weather and Raconteurs albums, I would attribute it mostly to Jack White having full creative control. Nothing wrong with Allison Mosshart, Brendan Benson, etc….but if you have Michael Jordan on your team, you want him taking more shots than anyone else.

  5. Yeah, this would be a hard one to disagree on. He’s so magnificent. There’s this timeless quality about his work, the way you can feel the modern energy but pick up all these references and nods to the entire history of American roots music. I thought this was a great review. You definitely deserve to be freshly pressed! I haven’t bought his album yet, but I’m so excited for that day in the near future when I have the extra $$ to make it mine.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Great description of White’s work, “timeless quality…modern energy”…I may have to steal that.

  6. He’s one of those few artists that I absolutely adore, but never get concerned about when they release a record because you already know it’s going to be pure quality from start to finish. Plus everything he does seems insanely cool. I’m jealous of him too – he’s a total genius.

      1. Sorry for the delayed reply! No, I haven’t, but it looks great. I’ve seen him do some interviews talking about music in general, though, and he just seems so intellectual & has such fresh ideas about the act of creation. I always find it interesting to listen to him. I have, however, seen his cameo as Elvis in Walk Hard, ha ha.

  7. So excited to see a Jack review ! (He’s one of those you wish had the attention he deserved but at the same time don’t want to see it mainstreamed.)Loved the format you used here, very clever.

    1. Thanks…we are only able to do reviews in this format occasionally (logistical nightmare), but really love doing it. Glad you enjoyed it.

  8. Great review.I can’t wait to get my hands on his new album. Ever since I saw him with Jimmy Page, I can’t seem to get enough Mr. White!

  9. I’ve been singing along with “Love Interruption” since the single was released on itunes. I love that song and am a huge Jack White fan. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the entire album yet, but will being doing so this week. Thanks for the reviews, all of you. :)

      1. Been listening to the album all week. I like it. A bit more mellow than I had expected. I have to include “I’m shakin'” to my already loved “Love Interuption” and “Sixteen Saltines.” Thanks again for the review.

  10. Thanks for the detailed review. Good stuff indeed, but the album does lack some of the “all cylinders” enrgy of “Get Behind Me Satan.” Still, it’s Jack White. Who are we mere mortals criticizing?

  11. Good review, liked how you did it, this review has swung me, I’m going to buy the allbum. Iv’e never really listened to the white stripes or the raconteurs, so I think I should invest in some of their albums. Any albums you think I need to listen to?

    1. Thanks. I would recommend Broken Boy Soldier for the Raconteurs and Elephant, White Blood Cells, and Get Behind Me Satan for the Stripes.

  12. I totally agree with the review. I think this album shows how creative an artist can get. It’s full of different tunes and it takes the listener to different worlds. Jack did it again :D

  13. So many things to say after reading this. I like your style would be the first thing. Second thing is that I am totally curious about the music now and going to have to listen to much more. Thirdly, I collect jazz and blues autographed photos so I love your blog! Finally this my friend, who can look at that photo of a stack of pancakes and not want them for dinner? Great blog! Loved it. Thanks for sharing with me. (us all)

  14. Great review! Convinces me this album needs to be bought. I haven’t been all that convinced by recent Jack White stuff, though I’m usually drawn in by the hype. I still go back most to “Elephant”, “White Blood Cells” and “De Stijl”. The latter is such a great blues-rock piece. “Sister Do You Know My Name”, “Little Bird”, “You’re Pretty Good Looking For A Girl”. it’s like a fusion between country, Velvet Underground and Led Zep 2. There’s a link with “In My Time of Dying”. I saw the White Stripes live once, at Alexandra Palace, in North London. brilliant. The sheer power of Jack White’s guitar was incredible and I couldn’t stop thinking of Led Zep. In my world that is a massive compliment!

    1. Ya, he has stage presence like no other. People who aren’t convinced by Jack White’s greatness just need to see him in any shape or form.

    2. Thanks John! Yea, I remember when I first saw Jack with The White Stripes. Still to this day one of my favorite concerts I’ve ever been too. Nothing compares to him live. Simply mesmerizing.

  15. I listened to Blunderbuss when Jack had it streaming on iTunes before it’s release.
    I think it’s awesome (though I don’t have my own copy of it yet).

    It was great seeing Jack perform a couple songs on Saturday Night live a few weeks ago.

    That reminds me of how much I enjoyed hearing Jack talking about music on the ‘It Might Get Loud’ movie. if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

    You can check out my SNL review here -> http://hipsterapproved.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/did-you-catch-jack-white-on-snl-last-night/

      1. Thanks!

        I did download a song from The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams that Jack did called ‘You Know That I Know’. Of course it’s VERY country.

        I also love the song ‘Two Against One’ that Jack did with Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi. It’s available on iTunes. I highly recommend it. Check it out.

  16. My boyfriend and I just adore Mr. Jack White. Lovely, fantastic, and all around a superb review.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
    You have a new follow and this post is added to my favs :)

    Introvegirl

  17. Thanks for the great review! I love Jack White and bought our tickets to his Vancouver concert a few weeks ago, but still haven’t had the time to pick up the album. I’m doing it tomorrow now! Can’t wait!!! Thanks again! Sarah

  18. I just saw Jack White in Paris – seeing him live is some sort of religious experience. I wasn’t sure which Jack to expect even if I knew he was going to be wonderful. And he was wonderful. Great reviews of the album, thank you.

  19. Congratulations on your freshly pressed honor!

    My ex-fiance turned me on to Jack White in about 2002, or thereabout. Hadn’t heard of him. Now, he’s everywhere. Really enjoyed the “It Might Get Loud” doc. I grew up with Page et alia.

    After having a couple of near life-ending strokes and a heart attack, I had to relearn to play guitar, and still struggle to do so, but love it. A few months ago, I decided to start posting guitar licks with tabs for those who are struggling to learn. If interested, you can find them by clicking on my name.

    1. That’s awesome that you are sticking w/ guitar…I will definitely check out your site. Thanks for checking us out.

  20. Saw White Stripes in concert several years ago and it wasn’t really my thing. But Jack White has worked his way under my skin. Of course, he totally had me with the collaberation with Loretta Lynn and the video of Portland, Oregon! I will be purchasing this CD for sure!

  21. I’ve had the record now for a week and I’m digging it a lot. With that said, I do miss the dirty sleasy acid rock blues sound of The Dead Weather….my favorite of the Jack projects.

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