Jack White – Boarding House Reach Review

Jack White. The Jack White: One half of the White Stripes, Part of the Raconteurs, Part of the Dead Weathers, founder of Third Man Records, multi-instrumentalist maestro, producer and singer-songwriter. Even before Jack White went solo in the late 2000s his legacy was already cemented as one of the best musicians, never mind Rockstar’s of recent times. Yet, his most recent solo records have flattered to deceive. The hallmark of his two previous solo LPs, Blunderbuss and Lazaretto, rather than his trademark eccentricities has been safety and timidity. Whilst there have been moments of the weird and wonderful, by and large, it’s been solid after standard rock and blues tracks which, although consistently decent have been short of the energy and creativity which White has shown to possesses on previous projects like the White Stripes. On Boarding House Reach, however, White delivers in abundance and with such aggression that you really can’t look away. With few exceptions, Jack White delivers on an experimental and genre-wrestling album which forces the worlds of rock, electronic, blues and funk into one impressively unique and cohesive whole.

Whilst the opener, Connected by Love, nails its colours to the mast with it’s hypnotic beat and intricate melding of the guitar and organ for an impressive solo, structurally and lyrically it sounds more like Jack White from Blunderbuss than the Jack White who appears throughout the album. Thankfully, the follow-up track more seamlessly combines Whites blues background with the powerful electronic influence into an interesting ballad. It also features one of the best, of the many, guitar solos on the album as the guitar struggles against the electronics, cutting out intermittently and distorted before bursting through.

White is just so eccentric on this album. Even on the more upbeat tracks like Corporation, which for the majority of its run time features random shouting and a killer instrumental with some incredible bongo-style drumming. It’s companion piece, Respect Commander, has another banging instrumental with eccentric guitar riffs and escalating distorted electronics but slows down before segwaying into a wild guitar solo while Jack sings about his complete devotion to woman who has his complete respect and power over him. Structurally, the lead single, Over and Over, is peak Jack White and from the roaring of the opening riff you know you’re in safe hands with White’s energy and ferocity echoing Icky Thump era White Stripes.

Things get stranger when we move away from some of the more obviously Rock influenced tracks. For instance, on Ice Station Zebra White goes meta and spells out the whole idea of the album; both sonically and lyrically. The odd instrumental in the first half with this spikey guitar in the background and the lick of piano keys transitions into the much funkier second half all perfectly fits in with White’s point that music can’t simply be put into neat boxes, nor can artists think they are creating something in a vacuum: “Everyone creating is a member of the family, Passing down genes and ideas in harmony, The players and the cunics will be thinking it’s hard, But if you rewind the tape we’re all copying the same God”.

Even the instrumentals on this thing are so odd and cinematic. On Everything You’ve Ever Learned, Jack turns fiery preacher whilst on Esmerelda Steals the Show turns back to his more singer-songwriter style. The only time the experiment may go too far is on the track, Hypermisophoniac, which although innkeeping with the concept of the album has some ear grating electronic sounds which get stale and staler fast.

Overall, Boarding House Reach is a brave, experimental and eccentrically odd album that only Jack White could deliver; not only in the sense that White’s personality shines through on virtually every single track but also in its technical mastery and just how layered the songs are. If Boarding House Reach succeeds in anything (and it succeeds in a lot) it is to rejig (or remind us of) our idea of what a ‘Jack White Album’ is. No longer is it a stale, copy and paste, coffee house rock and blues, instead, it’s something all its own.

Jack White – Boarding House Reach = 9/10

Callum Christie

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