‘Blunderbuss’ (Third Man Records / XL Recordings)
Recommended Track'Sixteen Saltines', 'Freedom At 21', 'Love Interruption', 'Hypocritical Kiss'
Workaholics: they just don’t stop ‘til the job is done. And when the job is done? Well, er, they go and get another one.
In Jack White’s case, you suspect that what he really wants – what drives him to slap on the talc in the morning and plug in his amp – is the notion of a legacy. John Anthony Gillis would like to be the Neil Young or Bob Dylan of his generation. That’s what all the Dead Weathers and Raconteurs and fi lm cameos and guest drummer spots are all about. They’re not vanity projects, he’s just driven.
Of course, he already has a legacy: so many great riffs have fallen from his fingertips in the last 13 years that you expect ‘Blunderbuss’ – especially given its elephant gun title – to be jam-bleedin’-stuffed with ‘em. Instead, it isn’t; Jack White’s debut solo offering is a dusty, front-porch singalong of an album where some of the songs – most notably ‘I Guess I Should Go To Sleep’, with its saloon piano and ragged harmonies – even place him fi rmly in a rocking chair under a warm blanky.
However, the lack of boisterous riffing is not, in itself, a shortcoming. The problem with ‘Blunderbuss’ is more subtle; largely, that it suffers from lethargy. It’s natural enough that an album by a guy who runs a vinyl-only record label should be insanely retrograde, but when he’s proclaiming himself to be Bo Diddley (‘I’m Shakin’) or spouting some super-staid jivelingo (‘Trash Tongue Talker’ features the highly winceable “I got no truck with you, woman” and even employs the word “Mama”, contravening all kinds of acceptability bylaws in the process), the feeling is as stuffy and lifeless as second-album Raconteurs at their most maudlin.
Fortunately, there are plenty of redeeming moments: a classic White riff hangs like victory bunting from every verse of ‘Sixteen Saltines’; ‘Freedom At 21’ jiggles his knack for a hook right in your face, simultaneously glancing askew at modern sexual morals; while the two best ballads – ‘Love Interruption’ (a husky duet with Ruby Amanfu) and the piano-led ‘Hypocritical Kiss’ – are more modernist than purely pastiched.
Ultimately, ‘Blunderbuss’’ weaknesses are diminished by moments of sheer greatness. But, in terms of the career that Jack built, it’s only the latter that’ll really matter…