A year has passed since The White Stripes announced that they were calling it quits, and the typically over-active Jack White has been suspiciously idle. Known for juggling multiple acts, including the Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather (a lot of “the” bands), White took off most of last year to work on yet another project: his first ever solo album. BLUNDERBUSS is the result, and regardless of what he’s calling it this time around, it’s irrefutably Jack White. Fans of the Stripes who have mourned their disbanding should find a lot to love here, as this release solidifies the suspicion that his first band was really just the Jack White show (though how anybody could possibly think otherwise is strange, considering they were a duo, and he handled all songwriting duties).
That isn’t to say that this is completely familiar territory for White. Despite the vague similarities to his previous work, White certainly explores new sonic territories: there is an abundance of low-tempo blues work here, not to mention an array of stylistic flourishes that are less reminiscent of the more rock ‘n’ roll Stripes. The piano is of more use here than it ever has been in White’s past, and the guitar seems to take a backseat to overall composition. Freed from the confines of guitar-oriented songwriting, BLUNDERBUSS seems to revel in its sonic and structural diversity: song lengths are generally short and to the point, and give the impression that they were written almost entirely on piano with all extra instrumentation treated as an afterthought. The White-esque guitar solo on “Weep Themselves to Sleep” is a rare occurrence, and the bass-driven “I’m Shakin'” is one of the few obvious throwbacks to old-school Stripes.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to be surprised by BLUNDERBUSS. This album is exactly what you would expect from Jack White: his signature vocals set against the backdrop of blues-rock meanderings. And even though I would have loved to have seen White experiment a bit further with his formidable musical talents, it’s difficult to argue with the results – even Jack White playing it safe is a force to be reckoned with, and this release should be everything that White fans have been clamouring for. Hopefully it signals the beginning of a new chapter in White’s creative output.
Standout tracks: “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy”, “Weep Themselves to Sleep”, “On and On and On”.