Jack White – Blunderbuss

written by: April 23, 2012
Release Date: April 24th, 2012


Jack White, as you may or may not know, could not give one fuck whether you think he’s ‘the man’ or not. Maybe he did once, when he and his ex-wife were digging around in the dilapidated Detroit garage rock scene over a decade ago. Maybe he even did after the riff to end all riffs (“Seven Nation Army,” duh) catapulted The White Stripes to super-stardom and the band was put in the unenviable position of following that up.

But then Jack White wrote Get Behind Me Satan, and from then on it’s seemed pretty obvious that the bespectacled man in black has done whatever the hell he’s felt like doing. From too many supergroups to name (The Dead Weather, most recently) to movies (peep his cameo in Walk Hard as Elvis) to a record label (Third Man and it’s magic school bus) to the outright bizarre (ICP), White has allowed his considerable talent and miraculous work ethic to overpopulate himself in the music sphere with impunity.

To this end, Blunderbuss, White’s first solo record, could not have happened if it weren’t for a combination of the bizarre, the opportunistic and the insanely talented. Abandoned by RZA at a studio in Nashville with an entire session band on the payroll, White set about writing songs and performing the with a group of musicians he found freedom with. From this conceptual framework sprung forth Blunderbuss, basically a curated supergroup compilation with Jack White serving as de facto band leader. As one might expect, Blunderbuss sounds exactly as disjointed as it should – perfectly perfunctory in places, slyly inspired in others.

To assuage fears, White is certainly front and center here. He doesn’t exactly shred as much as Dead Weather enthusiasts or Icky Thump thumpers would like, but neither does he dive too far into what made Icky Thump the worst White Stripes album. Keyboards get a liberal, Get Behind Me Satan-esque workout, as in the opening organ shuffle “Missing Pieces” or the blues-folk of “Hypocritical Kiss” and “Weep Themselves to Sleep.” White’s verse surprisingly ties together the disjointed sounds of the record, playing mostly on the dangerous femme fatale’s that, were you to take White lyrics at there word, are a dangerous business for both genders alike.

But too much of Blunderbuss feels like odds and ends scraped together from disparate phases of White’s life. The excellent riffage of “Freedom at 21” leads into somewhat ill-advised country forays like the title track. The last three tracks wisely ooze a bit of sophisticate honky-tonk, while the pair of “Trash Tongue Talker” and “I’m Shakin’” are mere novelty, as if White wanted to prove something about his rock n’ roll intelligence. Why they stand out as the weakest point in the record is the same reason “Freedom at 21” is the stand out best: in the former, White wants to show you something about his coolness, sort of in the mode of Zooey Deschanel in She & Him. In the latter, White could care less whether you notice that he kind of raps, and is kind of awesome at it. Thankfully Blunderbuss closes on a bit of the weirdness, with the wacky blusterings of “Take Me With You When You Go,” but nevertheless trying to derive a cogent narrative from the record is surprisingly difficult.

But about that. What’s amazing about the majority of Blunderbuss is how much it turns the conversation of what a record means on its head. It would be easy to note that “Sixteen Saltines” sounds like White grasping at lost garage rock glory, but that notion is nowhere else on the record, so what gives? As the protagonist in the far too cute “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” might say, “wherever you’ll be, you’ll be looking at me.” Blunderbuss isn’t an excellent, or even very strong, record. But it’s tossed off, slacker gaze that stares right back at you as you try and talk about it is evidence that you’re thinking too much about Jack White. He just wants you to enjoy a record he made, and to that end Blunderbuss is a relative success.

Jack White – Blunderbuss tracklist

  1. “Missing Pieces”
  2. “Sixteen Satlines”
  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”