Jack White goes solo, tries some new sounds

 

Those of us who were fans of the lo-fi, DIY Jack White of a decade ago need to come to terms with the fact that he’s gone, and he’s not coming back.

Following The Raconteurs and Dead Weather, plenty of production credits and founding his own label, White’s solo album is one more step in his leaving behind the White Stripes.

White is now streaming his debut solo album, “Blunderbuss,” on iTunes and will release it officially Tuesday.

blunderbuss Album cover | provided photo

While not a return to form, inasmuch as it largely doesn’t sound anything like the White Stripes, the album is probably the best thing White has done since 2005’s “Get Behind Me Satan.”

What may surprise fans of White’s distinct, screaming guitar style is how little of it can be found on the 13 tracks.  And when the guitar does come in, it’s often in late-White weird-riffing mode, a la “Icky Thump.”

Keyboards, if anything, take center stage on the album. They’re nothing new to White’s music, but here they are much more prominent than before.

This is apparent from opening cut “Missing Pieces,” which features an organ solo that’s cheesy in a good kind of way.

The organ turns up several times throughout the album, including single “Sixteen Saltines,” which, with its loud, simple riff is probably the most White Stripes-y song on the album.

With a strange, layered drum track on “Freedom at 21,” though, White moves about as far away from the White Stripes as he ever has. It’s about as un-Meg a beat as it gets.

One second, “I’m Shakin’” sounds like it’s going to be White’s take on T-Rex neo-rockabilly, but things take a turn when some gospel-y backup singers come in.

A highlight of the album is “Weep Themselves to Sleep,” which opens with some big, Who-esque guitar strumming before the piano takes over. That squeaky guitar tone finally makes another appearance though, in a stuttery stop-and-go solo.

While there’s certainly not a “Hotel Yorba” or a “Seven Nation Army” to be found, the album should renew faith in White for those who found his work of the last five years or so a little lacking.

As much as he apparently likes collaborating, maybe White is best on his own. Well, so long as Meg’s out of the picture, that is.

 


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