Jack White – Lazaretto Review

There is always a mystery and intrigue surrounding Jack White and what his next project might entail and that is purely a wait of expectation of whether the guy can remain on it like he was previously. The build up for his second solo album Lazaretto has not been any different leading towards the June 10th release of the album. If Blunderbuss had more of a folk tinge to it then Lazaretto will have a lot of garage and punk influences on top of the blues foundations. Another added dynamic is the use of both The Buzzards and The Peacocks in the album to offer up a slightly different delivery on tracks that he has said to have come up with when he was nineteen. No doubt many will have pre-judged this album on recently leaked emails between him and his wife which included bitter and hostile comments towards the Black Keys, but those things must be taken in isolation like his music perhaps aside from any lyrical reference of musical feel.

‘Lazaretto’ is the title track of course and gives us the first taste of a vocal performance from the album with the initial track ‘High Ball Stepper’ being an instrumental. Alarm bells ring initially as you think he’s gone for the big, monotonous distorted guitar sound like nearly every new band that comes out, however you are quickly shown that Jack White is a man of creativity. He isn’t just thrashing away at his guitar like a meathead thinking he’s Josh Homme, but he sculpts a rough and fuzzy groove from it and leaves the rest of the song spacious, broken down and fluid. Jack’s vocals teeter on the edge as always and are full of energy and punch that mimics the spaced up and fluid structure he’s forged by doing something different with the blocky distorted guitar sound. There’s also  laser like synths beaming over the other instrumentals which only serve to increase the urgency and this task is completed by the violin towards the songs conclusion. ‘High Ball Stepper’ is a track with no vocals but it would seemingly not need any. Jack’s guitar and the wiry strings conduct all the talking he needs. Whether the guitars are simply progressing through the chords, being manipulated and broken, typically heavy and distorted and then an all out scathing and raging affair, with feedback reeling off of it all. The wiry strings are almost the secret weapon here. They whip up a trepidation for each guitar stage and then go on to enable each riff to roll off it. This track is basically Jack White letting loose with a range of guitar parts and these are enhanced by the musical environment set around it.

‘Three Women’ has a much more soft edged feel to it, with the nudging rhythms a result of the piano parts and strung out guitars and winding sounds around it. The song’s close up and more soulful nature is triggered by Jack’s quick fire delivery being more strung out and solid in that sense and this is only accentuated by the backing vocals behind it. ‘Just One Drink’ is a low and steadily slung country roll and what’s particularly impressive is how Jack holds his vocal and turns it into a vocal hook but in a much less glaringly obvious fashion than your standard country vocal. ‘That Black Bat Licorice’ has a grinding riff that’s complimented by the thin, rotating organs in the background that enhance it’s quality. Songs such as ‘Alone In My Home’ have a 1970’s Rolling Stones feel to them. On a whole the album is wonderfully nostalgic with Jack still making his mark on it albeit primarily through production, vocal performance and of course his witty and puzzling lyrics. But with some tracks like ‘Want and Able’ it just seems a little dry and a bit like a filler. Though Lazaretto is a solid album as a whole, you do get a sense he wasn’t at his invigorating or innovative best.

Jack White – Lazaretto = 7/10

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