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Published 17th May 2012
Launching a solo career can be a daunting undertaking, especially if you have the kind of musical reputation that precedes Jack White. At the sprightly age of 36, with a vast repertoire of hits under his belt, as a prolific songwriter for The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather and the esteemed The White Stripes and considered by some as a warlock shrouded in mystery and others as a swashbuckling buccaneer of the musical world, Jack White has a lot to live up to. So, is this solo venture and consequent solo album merely an ephemeral blunder or a wonder?
Well, it’s a lot of both; White’s self –referential lyrics expose some tormented views on love, loss and life, and an evident instrumental prowess, enriching an album that yields a countrified twang, smuggled straight out of Nashville. Although it’s evident that Jack White’s musicality radiates throughout the album, the problem is that your eardrums are constantly grappling with an array of songs that are as dull as dishwater in places. A lot of the album, including the initial track ‘Missing Pieces’ resembles a lumbering dinosaur, with non-varying yet melodic piano chords that shuffle along, dragging our tympanum along with them; White’s rasping and spluttering vocals and a caterwaul of a guitar solo gives the album’s kickoff some attitude though.
In the same vein, ‘Sixteen Saltines’ proves itself to be quite a raw and rebellious rock stomper, encapsulating the energy that The White Stripes were renowned for, with a riff driven by raunchy power chords. Fists in the air at the ready as ‘Freedom at 21’ boasts plenty of vocal warbling, and yet another impressive and bombastic guitar solo, echoing Rage Against the Machines’ axman Tom Morello’s manipulation of a whammy pedal; sadly, it’s just not that exciting, with a slight anticlimax which turns out to be about as effective as a one legged man in an asskicking contest. Title track ‘Blunderbuss’ is a free-flowing country ditty, echoing Zepplinesque vocal lines, with harmonies courtesy of soaring strings and pendulating piano chords; but again, there’s no variety.
Nevertheless, ‘I’m Shakin’ is a sassy, reincarnated version of Little Willie John 60’s bop classic, which breathes some life into the album; a definite hit with shameless booty shakers. ‘Trash Tongue talker’ is a valiant effort of White’s to create an authentic, hummable honky tonk number, which features some rhythmic twists and turns. More disappointment to come however, as White offers a bottled cure for insomnia with his somnolent lullaby ‘I Guess I Should Go to Sleep’ and ‘On and On and On’ definitely goes on, and on, and on; our diplodocus does seem certainly seem to be on a mission alright.
To the contrary, ‘Take Me With You When You Go’ musters up some spirit, and is fortunately unleashed right at the album’s denouement; paced staccato piano chords, and a growling Jimmy Page inspired guitar riff accompanied by a fluttering frenzy of majestic sounding strings and a funky breakdown leading to another squealer of a guitar solo gives an insight into why this mysterious songwriter is revered as a shining talent.
There is no doubt that ‘Blunderbuss’ is a heartfelt album, and its commendable that White’s idiosyncratic passions for revitalising dwindling musical genres have not been left to simmer but have instead surfaced, highlighting his aptitude for song writing. A price has to be paid however, and regrettably ‘Blunderbuss’ has been starved off the energy and vigour which was indicative of Jack White as the musical driving force in his former groups.
Blunderbuss is available via ITunes, at £7.99; check out ‘Sixteen Saltines’ and ‘I’m Shakin’ for a cheeky taster.