Album Review: Jack White - Blunderbuss

1 May 2012 | 1:54 pm | Steve Bell

Strange, intoxicating, rewarding: Jack White strikes again.

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Has there been another character in music as enigmatic, confounding and contradictory as Jack White in the internet age? Mystique was once a rock'n'rollers stock in trade, but these days it's possible to discover what most stars had for breakfast this morning without too much effort. Yet Jack White is staunchly old school, preferring to shroud himself in smoke and mirrors whilst conjuring his retro-tinged music, figuring all else to be a distraction at best.

This isn't to suggest that there's trickery afoot to hide a lack of vision or talent – au contraire, White's blatant love of the musical form is so strong that it threatens to inhibit rather than liberate as he follows his muse to places that his fans may never have ventured. Yet this is what makes him so important, as these days so few are doing it so clearly for the music.

Fans of his previous acts will find nothing slavishly familiar yet will discover plenty new to love. Freed from the minimalist shackles of The White Stripes, on his solo debut White is free to roam and does so; whether it be the inspired bluesy swing of I'm Shakin', the carnival pop of Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy or the Kinks-ian country of the title track, there's vast tracts of ground covered, yet it ultimately fits together like an intricate jigsaw that suddenly reveals a gorgeous whole from its seemingly disparate pieces. Lyrically White is open about his recent pain and vulnerability, but moves such as getting ex-wife Karen Elson to sing backing vocals on songs clearly tackling their divorce add that aura of inscrutability that White so clearly craves (and which serves him so well).

Strange, intoxicating, rewarding: Jack White strikes again.

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