By at 2:19 AM Thursday, April 12th 2012


Jack White Concretes The Legend on ‘Blunderbuss’

Jack White, Reviews


The demise of The White Stripes still lays heavy on the hearts of both fans and the man, even after all this time. But Jack White’s Blunderbuss finally puts a candy-cane bouquet on its gravestone and seals the tomb firmly – just by being what a Stripes record could never hope to be. The full-color character immersion present on the man’s debut solo LP, recorded at White’s Third Man Studios in Tennessee, establishes a tri-colored middleground amidst the bands with which we associate him – namely the White Stripes, the Dead Weather and The Raconteurs – and transcends them all with a razor-sharp singular vision and staggering versatility that defies any of his group designs.

The dripping-charisma twinkle-eyed frontman strut we’ve missed as Stripes fans is the album’s welcome mat, via canter-paced opener Missing Pieces. The guitar tones and keys are a familiar skin to settle in beneath Jack’s breathless nursery rhyme architecture, but the basic-beat framework of old has been replaced with a guest-peppered band engine in a fully laced groove that threatens to steal its own spotlight – and often follows through, something we hear much of throughout the album, in spectacular design and a new spaciousness. Halfway through, a Rhodes piano frenzy dissipates, giving a final-warning descent through the last verse: “Sometimes someone controls everything about you / And when they tell you that they just can’t live without you / They aint 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

The explosive jolt of Sixteen Saltines (with a badass Gummo-meets-Lord-of-the-Flies video to boot) has all the spastic magnetism of the most incendiary Elephant composition, and stretches out into a thundering groove under a cascading melody before losing all control – or so it would seem. It’s quite difficult to imagine this mad alchemist actually letting go of the wheel – to master the appearance of the freakout, well that’s another art entirely.

The devil’s in the details, however, and we already know Jack’s perfectly at home in the red. In the liner notes of Blunderbuss, there is a picture of the Third Man logo, only with one of the three figures standing outside from the others as a hawk flies overhead. Small symbolism, subtle accentuations – they’re anything but passive accidentals from a man whose entire public presence has been filtered through a meticulous aesthetic. And so we find endless nuance on the carousel, in the subtle idiosyncratic bursts – such as the “ah ah ah ah” at 1:06 on Saltines. These are the reasons for which the rewind button was designed. To backtrack and savor that electric rush down your spine in those moments of trap-door greatness.

White’s predilection for a modern Orson Welles mystique is the thread networking the seam that pulls the blues-demon / folk romantic / Rock vagabond / Old West saloon spittoon anthems together into a mix of, frankly, shockingly fluid cohesion. But nothing prepares us for the sinister creep and tumbling percussion cauldron of Freedom At 21. Suddenly our ideas of a “Jack White record” seem quaint in light of this monstrous personality, this damnation of modernity that embraces the man-eaters of the era vulgaris, enabled by culture and corrupted by mean-spirited self-absorbtion. Hey, we’ve all been there, right?

Cut off the bottoms of my feet, make me walk on salt,” he skitters in a demonic falsetto as Autolux’s Carla Azar – Jack’s new ain’t-no-secret weapon – frames a downright freakish beat swarm. “Take me down to the police and charge me with assault / Smile on her face / She does what she damn well please…”

Suddenly, Jack’s entirely on your left, seething right in your ear while the deceptively simple menace-riff propels you forward into the beat, moves your entire body, grabs your hips… and then the double vocal kicks in and drives straight into the solo, deeper than you’ve gone before. You may feel a bit violated. Headphones will come in handy for the alien mecha-hornet deathmatch dual solo.

The title track strolls through an old fashioned Georgia peach breeze, gorgeous acoustics and pianos creeping in an earnest 4/4 waltz as Jack lays out his most poetically descriptive lyrics in memory; a tale of forbidden love indulged, accentuated by Fatz Kaplin on pedal steel and Brooke Waggoner on the ivory. The song paints a sweet-surrender snapshot of caution being released into the wind, of love conquering false certainty and tethered obligation: “So selfish them, would be their cry / And who’d we be to argue? / Doing what two people need is never on the menu.” The tantalizing thrill of the moment is conveyed in sweet-surrender excellence, Kaplin’s gliding strings pulling like a sensually inevitable current. Reckless romantics, take note of your new anthem.

Ever conflicted but endlessly committed to the magic of the heart (a lyrical theme from the very start), White romanticizes the emotional tug of war on the piano-and-acoustic march of Hypocritical Kiss, embraces the regret but leaves no room for doubt as to who holds the real blame: “And who the hell’s impressed by you?” he demands. “I want names of the people that we know are falling for this.

The second half of Blunderbuss sports inflammations of an Old West barroom vibe that cuts through cinematic drama (Weep Themselves To Sleep) and upbeat charmers Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy, adding a vintage dynamic that’s always been shorthand for a misplaced timepiece such as White. The cover of Rudolph Troombs’ I’m Shakin’ kicks the 50s jukebox with live claps, shakers and Ruby Amanfu (of Love Interruption feature) on backups, while the tone shifts to an uproarious stomp on Trash Tongue Talker, channeling Billy Joel at his most youthfully boisterous genius before a bombastic finish. Picture Jack drunk in front of a crowded ballroom at 2am, deep in a groove, collar & cuffs loose, throat running ragged as he pushes the room for the last thrust of energy they’ve got.

By contrast, the gorgeous lullaby of I Guess I Should Go To Sleep features lovely bygone-era harmonies among White and vocalists Ryan Koenig and Pokey LaFarge, between anxious-creep piano flurries. On And On And On, meanwhile, features a positively infectious melody and lead line that digs in like a dream you can’t remember if you had last night or eight years ago. Under the rainfall of brushes and gently consuming throbbing buoyancy of the bass, fragile harmonies just above a whisper lament the meaning of existence itself, a personal fit of existentialism. It’s a beautiful purgatory.

Rounding the final bend, Take Me With You When You Go is a gang-vocal backup party with Ruby, Laura Matula and White’s ex Karen Elson lending breath. Carla’s fully immersive percussive dynamic carries the jalopy down the road, coupled with Jack’s piano flurries – until a false finish at the two-minute mark, when a rush of keys tells us the fun’s not over, the fuzz guitar takes charge and shit gets righteous. A fiery heel-clicker solo and shimmying vocal – a thickly-harmonized melody volleying with Ruby – through the final verse sends us off smashingly, a rollicking celebration and parting kiss.

There has never been an album quite like this kaleidoscope of disciplined soul & prowess, or more of a promising beginning down a new musical path for the nucleus of Third Man. We can psychoanalyze the road, the reasons and the rationale, we can marvel like stargazers at the Wonka-meets-Welles architecture or we can just spin the black circle and celebrate.

Because goddamnit, Jack’s done it again.

Pick up Blunderbuss at

Front page cover photo by Jo McCaughey.


Jack White


Released: 24/04/2012
1. Missing Pieces
2. Sixteen Saltines
3. Freedom At 21
4. Love Interruption
5. Blunderbuss
6. Hypocritical Kiss
7. Weep Themselves To Sleep
8. I’m Shakin’
9. Trash Tongue Talker
10. Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy
11. I Guess I Should Go To Sleep
12. On And On And On
13. Take Me With You When You Go

Meanwhile, On The Internet...

  1. loonypalooza says:

    Yet again, another incredible and detailed review by Johnny Firecloud. Thank you, I will definitely be checking this one out.

  2. dallasworley says:

    An excellent review of what should be my favorite record in some time. It’s good to know that Jack’s Midas touch of kick-assery is still intact.

  3. zobi says:

    wait, it didn’t leak yet??? antiquiet rocks!

  4. Keeley says:

    I love Firecloud’s reviews. And congrats on getting a shout out on Twitter from TMR! Can’t wait to listen to this album.

  5. I can’t wait for this album…11 days! Great review by the way!

  6. Brittany says:

    FIVE STARS. YES YES YES. Can’t wait for the album on 4/24. HUGE fan of Jack!

  7. Pete says:

    I’m really looking forward to this album. I liked the White Stripes, but thought Jack kind of outgrew the band as an artist. That’s not to say they couldn’t put out another really good record, but at this point a new Stripes record would be a Jack White solo album, which is what we have now. I would love to see the Raconteurs get back together, hopefully next year, and hope the Dead Weather stay Dead.

  8. [...] our review of the album, we described album MVP Freedom at 21 as [...]

  9. [...] you’ve been keeping up with the critical response so far, you know that Jack White‘s solo debut Blunderbuss is one to look out for. Now, [...]

  10. [...] told you enough about how good Jack White‘s solo debut Blunderbuss is – and, more specifically, how Freedom At 21 is its finest track. Although the album is [...]

  11. I have been reviewing this album on different websites for over 2 hours now and have listened to the album in its entirety several times. Firstly, excellent review, the best yet, not just for you obviously liking the album of course, but the detailed imagery instilled along the way. You sir, are very talented yourself and are maybe wasting your talent writing reviews. I love Jack White and some of the songs on this album, especially the ones dealing with his treatment at the hands of a certain woman or women, although not entirely tongue-in-cheek, are cleverly laid out in a way that he hoping other women will feel sorry for him, specifically in hip (eponymous) poor boy, that it’s almost comical to see who will fall for it. He is very talented, that there is no doubt and I hope he never stops making music.

  12. [...] as Jack White‘s solo debut Blunderbuss gets its official release, we get news of a brand new project of his. Much like Trent Reznor did a [...]

  13. [...] just a few days apart from his Raconteurs co-frontman’s solo debut, Brendan Benson‘s fifth LP, What Kind of World, provides a very interesting look into his [...]

  14. [...] case you haven’t noticed, Jack White put out a new album this week. While promoting the release of Blunderbuss, he made appearance on Stephen [...]

  15. [...] addition to releasing his solo album Blunderbuss on Tuesday, making a slew of TV appearances and concert stops (we’ll be there Monday!), Jack [...]

  16. [...] Because Jack White is fucking everywhere this week that is why I fucking know this. His new album Blunderbuss is a five star effort and now that you have watched him on everything from Colbert to American [...]

  17. [...] Jools Holland, a stop by The Colbert Report and of course dropping an amazing new album entitled Blunderbuss. Now you can watch Meg White’s Ex-Husband/Brother’s entire performance from last night’s [...]

  18. [...] Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather with new songs from his recently released solo record Blunderbuss. For someone who has appreciated Mr. White from a distance for years but never seen him live in any [...]

  19. [...] the United States with newly announced tour dates in support of his spectacular debut solo album Blunderbuss.  The new dates take the guitar legend through the West Coast and Midwest over the course of the [...]

  20. [...] White reveals to Maron that the entirety of Blunderbuss was recorded on analog, the two engage about the advantages of recording analog as opposed to [...]

  21. [...] more than 6 months on the road promoting this year’s truly fantastic Blunderbuss LP, Jack White stopped by Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa on Friday night bringing with him his all-male [...]

  22. [...] sitting on top of the chart since 2008. However, it was announced this week that Jack White‘s debut solo LP Bunderbuss (our second favorite album of 2012) has surpassed the Beatles’ classic album with [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>