A lot of millennials freaked out over the 10-year anniversary of Mean Girls, marking it a milestone in ‘holy crap, I’m getting old’ syndrome. I, on the other hand, get the same set of heebie jeebies when thinking about how “Seven Nation Army” is now eleven years old. Add on top of that the six prior years the White Stripes were a band, their six albums, Jack White‘s two solo LPs, and the centuries of blues music that was being repackaged in the first place – White’s tenure in the game is impressive, but the well is running dry.
Lazaretto, the second LP under White’s own name, tries incredibly hard to feel like it’s doing something different. But for the most part, it isn’t. That in itself raises questions: Are the “rules” White mentions feeling pressured to follow in these lyrics referring to the rules of blues as a genre? Does his re-re-re-appropriation of blues make his Black Keys comments hypocritical? Who knows.
Pushing aside the misogyny of collecting women of varying hair colors (a la “hoes in other area codes”), there’s just only so many ways you can rock a blues scale over blues changes. At this point, Jack White’s done them all, and this might very well be a repeat:
White tests out his rock-rap skills with quickly-delivered (yet somewhat nonsensical) lines, and it’s immediately appealing. However, while it’s hard to put your finger on where they came from, the chorus’ guitars and bridge’s vocal melody are oddly familiar: [LISTEN]
While musically channeling some Grateful Dead and a touch of Led Zep, this impressive track’s featured lyric accurately reflects a bit of the mild hypocrisy in White’s recent comments – sure, there’d be no Black Keys without White, but there’d be no White without every blues guitarist ever; [LISTEN].
Darker than his usual fare, White still maintains his straight-ahead rock feel here. He “want[s] you to fight for [his] love” on a solid track – even though the opening lines accuse the song’s subject of making him jump through unreasonable hoops to prove his love. It sounds toxic both ways:
White’s latest plays with odd-time, quirky piano rolls, reverse effects and some sort of seagull noise, but in the end it’s just four quiet-to-loud climaxes of fuzzy, drop-D-guitar blues-rock. The bells and whistles fail to distract from that fact, but overall it’s still okay: [LISTEN]
White and his “cold” lady-friend are on two very different wavelengths – he “watch[es] TV, [she watches] the ceiling” – a fun little romp, but only if you’re down with an incredibly familiar, surfy rock-n-roll vibe, one that’s probably a bit too familiar: [LISTEN]
Another lyrically dark track to follow in the “Would You Fight…?” footsteps, “Alone…” is contrastingly backed by pretty yippy-skippy piano chord progression. White continues his “ghostly” motif, and once again worries about turning into one himself, thanks mostly to lost love: [LISTEN]
Although it immediately feels slightly cheesy (thanks to the vibraslap), White’s rap-like lyrical speed and preacher-passionate delivery pick up the slack left by his blues-scale dependence. A lot of this album toes that line due to blues’ limitations after eight albums and countless other works: [LISTEN]
This fairly standard 6/8 country ballad gets right under the skin – namely because I can imagine few people (not to mention rock musicians) more “entitled” than White. Case in point: The Raconteurs. As such, even if he’s supposedly projecting onto a third-person narrator, the plot is bothersome:
White’s message here attacks superficiality as well as, once again, the sense of “doing what you’re told.” He sure knows how to construct a song, but here it seems to be built completely on a mosaic of other artists’ riffs – most notably, the walk-down from “The Wall:” [LISTEN]
Crow sound effects and a balladic 6/8 drinking song feel help White discuss both the positive and negative natures of desire and achievement. All the while, as seems a requirement for this album, White drops a few lines about “doing what you’re told” once again: [LISTEN]