Blunderbuss

Get Behind Me Satan- The White Stripes

Get_Behind_Me_SatanRelease Year: 2005

Rating: 8/10

White Stripes fans weren’t prepared for what Jack White had up his sleeve for this 2005 release. Just when we were getting used to the band’s blues and garage rock driven sound, they put out an album where it’s almost entirely absent. There are moments when you think this isn’t a White Stripes album at all, rather some strange, experimental songs put together by Jack with some of them having traces of the popular band. Even if this is true, the album still comes off very well, even if you have to set it aside and let the whole thing grow on you.

Jack White has always played around with various sounds and playing piano on the past albums, but it completely takes over here. You suspect this album won’t be like their others from the opener “Blue Orchid.” Even though there are awesome riffs, there’s something about the song that’s different. It’s a bit darker for sure and it sounds like straight up rock and roll more than anything else, but the change doesn’t seem so drastic. That is until you get to “The Nurse.”

I used to hate this song only because the music is so disjointed on the entire thing. It begins with a marimba that gives off this tropical feel at times, like something you should be hearing while sitting on a beach. After awhile a short guitar riff will violently play, but what throws you off is it always plays at different beats. It’s not steady and it’s hard to keep track of if you don’t know the song well. But after awhile it begins to grows on you; even I’ve come around to it. It’s now one of the most enjoyable White Stripes songs for me.

The sonic experiments don’t stop there. Another song that sounds like nothing else the band has ever done is “Little Ghost.” In short, it’s a backwoods country song that talks about falling in love with a ghost. Now it doesn’t seem like such a big deal because Jack has done country inspired songs both on his own and with The Raconteurs, but at the time it was the weirdest thing ever to come from the musician. This was another song I truly hated and while I still don’t listen to it, I can appreciate it a little more. There are also songs where changes are as simple as taking away key instruments. There are few songs here where it’s only Jack and a piano and they’re really quite stunning.

One of the most interesting tracks here is “White Moon,” which features mainly piano and some light drumming from Meg. But what makes it so intriguing are the lyrics that constantly refer to classic Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth. The song is rumored to be about bad past relationships and his obsession with the actress. Many also speculate that it’s actually about ex-wife Meg White. It’s not that far fetched especially when you consider the last seen in Under the Great White Northern Lights, where Jack and Meg are sitting at a piano, while this song plays. By the end, Meg has broken out into tears. No matter what it’s actually about it’s still a heartbreaking song.

The closest you’ll get to the classic Stripes sound is on “Instinct Blues” and “Red Rain.” The former song has a similar format to their older song “Aluminum:” while there are lyrics, it really shows off Jack’s guitar skills. As the title suggests, there is a hint of blues here, but it’s rock music that mainly takes over the distorted, raw riff. “Red Rain” on the other hand has zero blues influence, but is more tuned to their garage rock roots. The riff is intense and also the most brutal and aggressive thing heard on the record so far. There are more hints of their sound on songs like “The Denial Twist” and “Take Take Take,” which is another track centered on Rita Hayworth, but otherwise it’s as if they were trying to reinvent the band.

The record as a whole has this air of mystery to it; a lot of the songs are drastically different from what the band had down previously, but also a lot of the songs are difficult to figure out. Songs like “Passive Manipulation” and “Blue Orchid” have these ambiguous lyrics that make the listener sit and think about the meaning if they so choose to. The White Stripes have always been enigmatic, but they push it even further with this album. In a way it makes the entire experience more interesting because it allows the listener to apply their own meaning to the tracks. Besides, isn’t that the fun of music?

Overall, the album gets 8/10. While I don’t think it’s their best album, it’s definitely their most intriguing. This is where the band tosses away their previous blues and garage rock influences and embrace different instruments and sounds. It may take a while for the record to grow on you, but over time you appreciate it. Also, it seems that the album has aged extremely well; it just gets better over time. Its a record like this that shows why The White Stripes were and still are one of the most loved bands around.

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Blunderbuss- Jack White

Release Year: 2012

Rating: 9/10

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.

De Stijl- The White Stripes

Release Year: 2000

Rating: 8.5/10

Jack White’s first solo album, Blunderbuss, doesn’t come out until next week, but we can look at the White Stripes second album to cure the impatience. There isn’t a huge shift in sound or songwriting between this and their first album, but there are some small changes that make this album standout. As always, the songs are still great and still filled with blues driven riffs. Even though Jack White has never been shy about his blues roots, they come through more on this sophomore album.

Rather than opening with a bang like on their first album, their second album opens with the playful and mid-tempo “You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl).” This is a bright sounding song that’s kind of on the mellow side thanks to the acoustic guitar. It’s a pretty simple track with a hint of attitude from the way White adds “for a girl” at the end of every other line. It makes it sound he’s wasn’t interested in girls in the first place. The following track “Hello Operator” brings back the guitar driven rock the band is known for. This song has a sprawling blues riff that makes the entire song, but Meg makes her presence known with simple taps with her drumsticks that gives the song a cool effect. There’s even harmonica playing at the end, which really drives home the blues influence. What’s cool about this is that when the guitar and harmonica are playing side by side it’s hard to tell the two apart.

As with the last album, every song on here is great. They’re filled with impressive riffs, dark lyrics and White’s ever changing vocals. The biggest difference with the songs here is that there are less of them. This album has thirteen tracks whereas the first one finished with seventeen. The lesser number of songs doesn’t make the album bad, but when considering that most of the songs here are longer than one minute, it’s probably better that they went with fewer songs.

Just as with their previous effort, every song is influenced by the blues, but here this influence seems to take over the album. While it wasn’t missing from their first record it wasn’t as present as it is here. Just about every song has some element inspired by the blues or country music, especially when it comes to the last track “You’re Southern Can is Mine.” The riffs sound like they’re ripped from Southern blues songs and often feature sliding guitar and songs subject matter is blues inspired too. White drives home his love for the blues by covering the Eddie James House blues track “Death Letter.”

The guitar playing here outstanding, just as it was on the last album, but there is a slight difference in the playing. The first record had Jack playing wild, chaotic, fast riffs that would leave the listener breathless. While the riffs here are still impressive, they are not as wild or fast. They are more blues focused than rock or punk focused. This not only means the songs are not as fast, they are also filled to the brim with Blues elements. This also makes the songs more intricate and a bit more focused. Nevertheless, the riffs are still great. They’re catchy and playful at times and damning at others. Either way they’ll still leave you impressed.

The music is also different because it not only focuses on guitar and drums. Here White extensively uses the piano to expand the sound. Songs such as, “Apple Blossom,” “Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise,” and “A Boy’s Best Friend” seamlessly mixes the use of piano and guitar. The music will often switch between the two without missing a beat. Sometimes the piano gives the song a dark tone and other times it makes it sound like something from a jazz club. Not only does the band feature more piano on these songs, there are other instruments, such as harmonica, fiddle and violin featured in some tracks as well. This shows how the band is willing to expand their sound and that their songs don’t have to be guitar driven.

Despite how upbeat the music can be at times a lot of the songs are actually pretty dark. “ A Boy’s Best Friend” finds Jack singing about how alone he is and how his only friend is his mother, while “Why Can’t you Be Nicer to Me” makes several references to suicide, such as “off a bridge and falling” and “on the ground and laying, nobody’s praying.” Death is an obvious theme in the blues track “Death Letter” and “I’m Bound to Pack it Up” is a bitter kiss off to an unworthy lover. It may be hard to catch these themes without the lyrics, but there are definitely more dark images than on the previous record.

Overall, the album gets 8.5/10. While the sound is mostly the same as their first album, there are some changes that add to the sound. The record isn’t as fast as their first one and the music is more blues focused, rather than relying on fast guitar riffs. There are also other instruments on the album that broaden its sound. Every song is great and will remind you why The White Stripes were and still are one of the most loved rock bands in music.

What do you think about this album? Do you have a favorite track? Let me know in the comments!