Don’t worry folks, it’s not a blunder.
Whatever expectations you have for Jack White’s first solo album get ride of them right now, because you’ll either be dissappointed or annoyed by Blunderbuss. With each band White was with (White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather) he had a mission. With the White Stripes it was to strip rock & roll to its bluesy roots, the Raconteurs to try being a sideman in a full band that had a more appealing “rock” sound, and the Dead Weather to put himself completely out of the spotlight with very un-Jack White-esk music. Now on his first solo record, White has nothing to prove and can do whatever the hell he wants, and that’s exactly what he’s doing. And I gotta tell you folks, I love it when he loosens up.
Before I go further taking about Blunderbuss, I must stress to you that this is not a White Stripes album. Though White was the creative mind behind the duo, it was still a part of a specific sound. The music on Blunderbuss varies all over different genres. He incorporates blues, rock, 60s pop, and country in all his songs. If I had to make a comparison it would be to the last White Stripes album Icky Thump, but even that didn’t sound like a White Stripes record.
But I’m putting too much emphasis on White’s former band. Blunderbuss puts the spotlight completely on White. He wrote (except for his excellent cover of “I’m Shakin'”) and produced all of Blunderbuss and these songs showcase the strengths of White as a songwriter. There are kick-ass rock songs (“Sixteen Saltines”, the most direct and loudest song on the album), honky tonk jams (“Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy”, “Blunderbuss”), and everything else sounds like a combination of everything White has done in his pervious bands.
And don’t worry guitar players, White still reminds us why he’s a guitar god. His signature guitar sound appears all over the place, and each solo is very tasteful. There are no feedback freakouts like “Ball and Biscuit” here, but the songs are so good you don’t mind. White is also a very underrated riff player, and Blunderbuss is full of great licks that Jimmy Page would be jealous of.
I think Spin magazine said it best when they said, “The emphasis [on Blunderbuss] is on the songs, not a prevailing ideology”. When you put things into that perspective, it’s easier to see how talented White is as a songwriter and performer. For the first time in his career White has nothing to prove, and now he can just focus on the music. The album sounds fantastic as a whole but some of the tracks are forgettable, and White, though an excellent singer, isn’t a memorable lyricist.
A blunderbuss is an action that is regarded as lacking in subtlety and precision, and that’s a perfect way to summarize Jack White’s first solo album. Blunderbuss is a much needed exercise for White to do something he has finally earned the right to do – make an album for the fun of making an album.
Overall First Impression: It might not be the album you expected (or wanted) to hear, but Jack White has earned the right to make an album for himself, and it still manages to be one of the best albums of the year so far.
Buy This Album If: You’re a fan of anything Jack White does.
Don’t Buy This Album If: You’re still banking on a White Stripes reunion.
Highlights: “Sixteen Saltines”, “Freedom at 21”, “I’m Shakin'”