It’s been testing times for Jack White recently. The press have reported on conversations the singer apparently had about the Black Keys front man Dan Auerbach in a typically tabloid negative fashion, and also reports of Jack having digs at previous White Stripes drummer, Meg White. Whether it was Jacks arrogance or humour, his over the top apology for these comments was comedy gold and just shows how the singer knows how to use his words to cause chaos, just like his music.
But were these stories just the hype machine put out to raise awareness of Jack’s new album Lazaretto? The cynic in me says yes, but the other part of me wants to believe that Jack is just as mood switching, vindictive and petty as the papers make out. It’s this sort of rock ‘n’ roll ridiculousness that’s missing in the world of music at the moment; gimmie more feuds and taunting any day over boring level-headed musicians.
What leads me to believe that all this commotion in the press isn’t just hyperbole is how Lazaretto sounds and feels. When compared to Jack White’s first solo effort Blunderbuss, the record is a different beast altogether – it’s darker, more intriguing, and has a real bone to pick with the world. It reflects Jacks mood in the press perfectly – he appears on edge, ratty, and almost looking in from the sidelines with a grimace. It’s lucky then that this mood has actually created some of Jacks most diverse and intelligent musicianship to date.
You’d find it difficult to dig out an album with more originality that’s been released this year – it peaks and troughs through blues, country, rock and hip-hop and also whatever else the ex White Stripes singer feels he can dredge up from the depths of his mind. And it does go deep. Entitlement for example is a country ballad focusing on the singers gripes and bitterness – he might sound like he’s throwing his toys out the pram here, but when you can write a song as good as this around pain that stands up to other classic country songs, you have to hand it to the man.
Alone In My Home features beautiful arrangements with the piano taking centre stage, and Jack shows off again his wonderful skills with High Ball Stepper – a musical monolith with no words needed throughout. Three Women leaves you again thinking if Jack seriously believes what he sings, being a blues-laden rocker filled with sordidness and debauchery, while recent single Lazeretto languishes in a haze of beauty, building up to space-sodden, riff-heavy awesomeness.
As you can see there’s variety in the bucket loads on the record, and that’s nothing less than you’d expect from a Jack White solo album. The record maybe doesn’t have the story-telling and lyrical authority of Blunderbuss – sometimes the songs feel a little disjointed because of the confusingly random lyrics – but it more than makes up for this with a sense of entitlement and arrogance to it, backed up with some cracking tunes.
Lazeretto shows the mood Jack’s in at the moment. With the amount of bands and side projects he has, it’s almost as if he has to cut and shape himself into what he wants each album to be, and this process seems to be working well. The jury’s still out on whether Jack actually believes everything that comes out of his mouth, but if he keeps producing great music like this, who the hell cares.