I’ll be the first to admit I was never really a White Stripes fan. It’s not that I didn’t give them a try; I purchased “white blood cells” but promptly returned it after my first listen (something I’d never done before, and have never done since.) You see, the album came out when I was a rebellious young buck and songs like “we’re going to be friends” just weren’t up my alley at the time. I’ve always enjoyed the White Stripes mainstream hits, secretly singing along to songs like “Seven Nation Army” and “Icky Thump” but on the outside I still hated the band… and its fans. But then I got to know Jack White, not personally of course but seeing him interact with other celebrities I admired like Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert made me realize he’s a pretty cool guy, so maybe I should reevaluate his music. The years have passed and I’m older now (not some young punk kid anymore) and I’ve got to admit I feel like I may have missed out on something here, that’s why when I saw Jack White’s solo effort “Blunderbuss” on the shelf at my local music store I figured, “Hey, let’s start over!” and what a great choice it was.
Now, take into consideration that I don’t know much about the White Stripes musical catalog so I’m not even going to try and figure out how “Blunderbuss” differs from any of the White Stripes albums. Instead I will try and give an unbiased review of the album from an outsider’s point of view.
From its first track “Missing Pieces” I already get a different vibe than any other “stripes” tune has given me, mainly from the smooth jazzy sound of the prominent electric piano that not only saturates this track but most of the album. Also evident is the exclusion of White Stripes’ drummer Meg White, this may be a good or bad thing according to your taste but personally I think the chosen session drummers for “Blunderbuss” are leagues ahead of Meg in talent, but that’s just me. And I’m not trying to hate on Meg here but you can really tell that this album was made with no limits; the simplistic sound of the White Stripes isn’t on this record. Instead a full assortment of musical instruments from pianos to steel guitars and mandolins fills each track with a wall of sound.
“Blunderbuss” may have a jazzier more overproduced sound compared to Jack’s other work but that doesn’t mean the album has lost its signature Jack White sound. Blistering guitar solos and cleverly delivered nonsensical lyrics are still ever-present on the album. Tracks like “Sixteen Saltines” and “Freedom at 21” sound like that they could have been ripped right off a stripes’ album, and rival the infectious nature of songs like “Seven Nation Army”.
The album is great, but not perfect. A few skippable tracks seem to work more like filler than standalone works of art. A few of the tracks, namely the first single “Love Interrupted”, features prominent backing soul singers who may very well be talented but in this environment it just doesn’t seem to work for me. I’m not against soulful backup singers (see my review of David Bowie’s Young Americans) but on this album the backing just sounds cheap and distracting. But don’t let this deter you from picking up this album, these tracks are by no means bad just not perfect and that’s why I can’t give “Blunderbuss” a perfect score. Instead I give it four and a half black vultures. Do yourself a favor, listen to “Weep themselves to sleep” if you like it, you’ll most likely enjoy the while album.