jack white // blunderbuss

by jared silva

Jack White sensed the time was right to pull the plug on The White Stripes in February 2011. White was always preoccupied with his wide variety of side projects, and by ditching the limited two person group he was able to expand his musical palette by focusing what’s important – his legacy. Blunderbuss is Jack White’s firearm titled solo effort and he appears rejuvenated by going it alone. Nashville’s Vance Powell (Dead Weather, The Raconteurs) assisted White with bringing his dark tales to life on Blunderbuss, which was recorded at White’s Third Man Studio. 

White has experimented with a more sinister persona in his Dead Weather guise, but Blunderbuss throws caution to the wind with its tales of late night deception, dangerous women and wronged men. There doesn't seem to be any salvation for White’s persona on Blunderbuss and this suits White just fine. Blunderbuss begins opener “Missing Pieces” with a sly piano riff and a damaged White recovering from a particularly gruesome brawl, which finds him with little recourse.  A resigned White sings “Sometimes someone controls everything about you / And when they tell you that they just can’t live without you/ They ain't lying they’ll take pieces of you / And they’ll stand above you and walk away/ That’s right, and take a part of you with them.”  It’s possible White is strongly in character here, although intuition points to The White Stripes breakup rather than his amicable divorce as he has not contacted Meg White since and his ex-wife Karen Elson plays on the album.

The raucous rocker “Sixteen Saltines” finds White reclaiming his guitar hero status with an accusatory rave up that features a ragged guitar and Hammond organ combo. “Freedom At 21” finds White experimenting with sonic textures by applying a hip-hop drum intro, affected vocal tick and a gnarly guitar solo to his tale of an unforgivable relationship.  White’s anguish takes a backseat to a declaration on first single “Love Interruption,” which also finds White adding a clarinet and duel female vocals into the mix. From that point on, White slows things down with the title track and the chamber pop-like waltz of “Hypocritical Kiss.”

Somewhere along the way, though, the emotions fail to match up, or the song structures that always sound so familiar fail to separate themselves from what’s come before. On Blunderbuss, this disconnect happens halfway through the album, and tracks such as “Trash Tongue Talker” and “I Guess I Should Go to Sleep” never gather enough momentum to truly take off. It’s during this lull that one wonders whether songwriting might come too easily for White, whether he could write these tunes in his sleep. That’s speculation, but the early fire of Blunderbuss, an overall solid initial solo effort, fizzles out as it wears on.


favorite tracks // "love interruption," "sixteen saltines," "take me with you when you go"