Describing Blunderbuss as Jack White’s first solo project certainly feels misleading. Although most of his works with The White Stripes were credited equally to both band members, Jack and Meg, we all secretly knew where the talent really lied. But for the first time, in his 15 years in the industry, the focus is solely on White – no band – no gimmicks – no stripes – just him, the maestro and the music.
Genre: Blues rock, rock and roll
Label: Third Man
Producer: Jack White
Released: April 23, 2012
1. “Missing Pieces” 3:27
2. “Sixteen Saltines” 2:37
3. “Freedom at 21” 2:51
4. “Love Interruption” 2:38
5. “Blunderbuss” 3:06
6. “Hypocritical Kiss” 2:50
7. “Weep Themselves to Sleep” 4:19
8. “I’m Shakin'” (Rudy Toombs) 3:00
9. “Trash Tongue Talker” 3:20
10. “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” 3:03
11. “I Guess I Should Go to Sleep” 2:37
12. “On and On and On” 3:55
13. “Take Me with You When You Go” 4:10
Even after discarding his peppermint candy colours, the red, white and black, Jack, who could easily be described as the modern conscience of American Rock & Roll, remains an interesting and strange character, his music deeply rooted in his equally strange past. Born the seventh son of devout Catholic parents, Jack spent his youth as an altar boy in the local church. He began playing drums at the age of 6, and grew up listening to old blues records in the attic. These both have a strong influence on his work in Blunderbuss, a beautiful, dark, melancholy fantasy that could easily be set in the backdrop of a church cemetery. And for all the gold records, distinctive bands, and expansive projects that have borne his name over the years, Dead Weather, White Stripes and Raconteurs included, White has never felt more at home. He goes on to state, “I’ve put off making records under my own name for a long time but these songs feel like they could only be presented under my name. These songs were written from scratch, had nothing to do with anyone or anything else but my own expression, my own colors on my own canvas.”
Blunderbuss (a short-barrel 18th century shotgun) is a fitting name for the album. Artistic growth aside it’s armed with some of Jack’s best work yet, covering songs about the hardships of love (“I want love to/roll me over slowly/stick a knife inside me and twist it all around/I want love to grab my fingers gently/slam them in a door way.”).
Strangely his blues guitar riffs play background over the punk rock energy that is now mainly channeled through a variety of pianos and organs. When the guitar solos do come to the fore, they are wild and dirty, like a child throwing a fit on the floor. He has claimed that the unifying theme in Blunderbuss is death, but any good listener could amount the statement to a lie. Truth be told, it’s all about his ex-wife, who he recently divorced after 6 years of marriage. In the same odd manner that the couple celebrated their divorce, inviting friends and relatives to join, Blunderbuss continues to “celebrate” his heartbreak.
The opening few lines of the first track paint the perfect picture of what we can expect from the album. “I was in the shower so I could not tell my nose was bleeding/Dripped down my body to the floor right below my feet and/Looked in the mirror at my face, I thought I had a disease.” This is Jack White in torment.
The first four songs are a reminder of past works, recapping his bass work on Elephant in Sixteen Saltines, his 70’s riff work on Icky Thump in Missing Pieces and his rhythmic work on Get Behind Me Satan in Freedom at 21. From there on, as soon as we reach the title track, we are taken on a different path, on a journey of self-discovery and liberation, as White explores a smorgasbord of different genres (all pre-computer and post hippie era music), including country, blues, rock and R&B. It’s all incredibly refreshing.
“No one can blow the shows/Or throw the bones/That break your nose/Like I can,” he cheekily boasts on “Weep Themselves to Sleep”. Who are we to argue?
The album peaks at “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” and “Weep Themselves to Sleep”, arguably the best of the crop.
Blunderbuss proves that Jack (who certainly qualifies as the Johnny Depp of the music industry) is in his element and is paving the way to a glorious solo career. It’s a vengeful tale, but it’s hard not to love it.