The highly anticipated solo album by Jack White does not disappoint. Every song pleases your craving for country-blues and rock. Though the songs aren’t filled to the brim with rock or blues as they were on his past work, they will still get you moving whether it’s just tapping your foot or dancing out of your seat. Though the album is on the slower side of things, it never tends to drag. It would be perfect if it didn’t feel like White held himself back on the record. Otherwise, you’re in for a ride.
White is known for his love of the blues, which is why it’s strange that this album isn’t saturated in it. It’s as if White decided the blues took over everything else he did and decided to take it easy on this release. While there are still elements of it found on songs like the playful opening track “Missing Pieces,” and the attitude filled “Trash Tongue Talker” it doesn’t take over the album. Rather White shows off his love for country and folk music. You can hear this on the vintage feeling “I Guess I’ll Just go to Sleep” and “Take me With You When You Go.” Country twangs and fiddle strings often add to the country feeling of these songs.
The songs here are excellent and have their own styles. The aggressive, White Stripes-esque “Sixteen Saltines” has a powerful riff that will make you think of Jack’s past work. This is just a wild song. Everything from the singing to the music is chaotic. Anyone who is a fan of the White Stripes will definitely love this track. Another killer song is the cover “I’m Shakin’.” This song has a jazz/blues feel to it and it will make you want to shake along to White’s playful singing. You can actually picture people swinging to this. Everything from the guitar riff to the back up singers gives this song a vintage feel. This should definitely be the next single. Plus, who can resist White when he wails “I’m nurvous?”
The first half of the album seems to have this theme of no good women and a cynical take on love. A lot of the songs have violent images, themes of abuse, and backstabbing women. The lead single for the album “Love Interruption” is full of violent imagery attributed to love. It may be hard to notice it at first based on the mellow music, but this is a dark song. Just look at the opening line: “I want love to roll me over slowly/stick a knife inside me/and twist it all around.” The intense “Freedom at 21” has the line “take me down to the police/charge me with assault/a smile on her face/she does what she wants to me.” White is often aggressive, bitter and fed up when singing these types of lyrics. Maybe the source of these harsh songs comes from his recent divorce. The second half of the album seems to be more about the positive side of love since it features more of the calm sounding songs and sweeter lyrics.
As mentioned before, the album is pretty slow. The fastest songs here are “Sixteen Saltines” and “I’m Shakin’” and while the other songs aren’t boring, you just want more of the former two on the album. It’s as if White teases us with the delicious riffs and harsh energy of these songs and refuses to give us another taste. A couple more faster tracks like these two would’ve shaken up the album a bit and added more flavor to it. It’s almost as if White held himself back from letting loose and recording faster tracks. It’s understandable that he doesn’t want his solo album to be compared with his other work, but it would’ve lightened up the album if he included more tracks like “Sixteen Saltines.”
On the subject of holding back, not only does it seem like White held back with the style of the songs, he may have held back with his use of guitar. It’s not absent here by any means, but he seems to use the piano more freely here. White has played piano on his past albums, but here it seems like he wanted to separate this album from anything else he’s done in the past, so he tickled the keys more than he strummed the guitar strings. But the piano can be just as amazing as his guitar skills. Just listen to the playing on the track “Hypocritical Kiss.” The piano sounds as if it should be played in a classical music concert. It’s absolutely beautiful.
Overall, the album gets 9/10. Even though it feels like White held himself back from really letting loose, it’s still an impressive first album. None of the songs will disappoint you. Whether it’s the fun, dance filled “I’m Shakin’” or the calm, upbeat tune “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” the songs will leave their mark on you. While the album might’ve been better if there were some faster tracks on it, it’s still an a great record. It’s probably one of the best records for 2012 and it will make you excited to see what Jack White will do next.