So I was hoping to have this up before Bonnaroo, but that obviously didn’t happen. I however, did get to see Jack at Bonnaroo, and it did kick ass. He played material spanning his entire career, including quite a few cuts from his second solo album, Lazaretto. Here are some words about that album. Enjoy.
“his most angst-ridden album to date.”
Jack White III has typically been a man of mystery. Throughout his career, he has avoided reporters, refused to discuss his work, and at one time, avoided drama by claimed that him and ex-wife Meg White were siblings. Recently however, the garage god has given the press a field day. In 2013, Karen Elson, White’s second ex-wife, filed a restraining order against him, one that was eventually called off. Later that same year, emails surfaced where White voiced grievances towards The Black Keys, claiming that they had “ripped off” his sound. He even refused to let his son attend the same school where Black Key’s frontman Dan Auerbach’s son was enrolled.
This year has been no better for White. Just last month in an interview with Rolling Stone, White proceeded to air his complaints towards Auerbach, Adele, Lana Del Ray, technology, and even Meg White. Since then, he has had to retract his statements and apologize.
This turmoil spills out over Lazaretto. It’s possible that White, at the age of 38, has made his most angst-ridden album to date. In “I Think I Found The Culprit,” he plays the victim, misappropriated and wrongfully blamed. “I think I found the culprit. It looks like you, must be you.” White’s inflection sounds bitter and scornful. “Alone In My Home” is White in his usual recluse state, hiding from the world, where he can’t be persecuted. It’s one of his finest country ballads to date. The descending vocal melody during the verses (see: “through my door,”) is phenomenally addicting.
But Lazaretto isn’t all guarding. In “Entitlement” and “That Black Bat Licorice,” White shakes his fists at collective humanity, declaring in “That Black Bat Licorice,” “Don’t you want to lose the part of the brain that has opinions? To not even know what you are doing, or care about yourself or your species in the billions.” Not since “Icky Thump” has he vocally attacked the human condition with such force.
The music on Lazaretto is just as aggressive. The bass and organ on “Would You Fight For My Love” are as menacing as the vocals. “High Ball Stepper” doesn’t even need vocals. The violin, reversed piano, and banshee guitars rip through ear drums like they’re toilet paper. Refrains on “Three Women” and “Lazaretto” bring the songs back with a vengeance. Just when you thought White’s onslaught was over, he comes back with cheap shot to jaw just for good measure.
Overall, I thought Lazaretto is leaps better than Blunderbuss. White is aggressive and refuses to pull punches, both lyrically and instrumentally. Like on the album cover, White sits in his throne of rock, alone, not even looking in the direction of his audience. In the future, I’d like to see White pull something out of left field, release an album that takes everyone by surprise. But until then, his usual blues rock bliss leaves me satisfied.