The new Jack White album is musical sunshine for healing the damaged soul says Katie Clare
It has been just over two years since the release of Blunderbuss, Jack White’s first solo album, (Louder Than War review here) a personal narrative of raw heartbreak, brooding emotion and verbal fist shaking: the songs powerful insights into emotional pain: it was neither distressing nor morbid, but absorbing, enrapturing and bloody sexy. Blunderbuss spotlighted the wounds on a broken heart his second album, Lazaretto however, beams sunshine on a healing soul.
Lazaretto is a flood of styles that unexpectedly crash and merge into each other without jarring or feeling disconcertingly disjointed. Opening with Three Women, a striking display of White’s skill at musical arrangement crafting a melodic velocity that winds the track up to a crescendo, it’s a saucy start to a to a thrilling ride. A funky bass slides us into the album’s title track, Lazaretto, “When I say nothing, I say everything” implores White as the sound tussles and rolls with itself: it’s snarly, screechy and fluid as electrically charged surges of falsetto vocals pepper the track the drums smashing in bringing the brawl to a conclusion.
Summer scented country sweetness oozes from Temporary Ground. White and the track’s female vocalist create a sense of harmonious motion as the honky tonk banjo and violins dance with bluesy guitars to a waltz like rock ballad tempo. The lyrics are like the retelling of a daydream –
“All the creatures have it hard now,
Nothing but God is left to know,
And why he left us all here hanging
With an illusion of a home’.
Lyrically the rawest of the eleven tracks Would You Fight for My Love’s drummed and ohh-ed intro opens up into a song that feels expansive and bittersweet “It’s not enough that I love you, there’s all these things I have to prove to you” White plaintively delivers. Musically very adroit it remains very accessible: operatic, anthemic and rhythmically hypnotic “Well I’m afraid of being hurt that’s true, but not afraid of any physical pain” the lyrics a statement of what is and a desire for proof of reciprocated emotion.
Back in April when Lazaretto’s release date was announced it was accompanied by the albums 5th track High Ball Stepper as a taster: it is a beatific, reckless and somewhat cacophonic instrumental declaration of intent coming at almost the middle point of the album it does a great job of stirring up already highly stimulated anticipation and adrenaline. An uninhibited and gleeful fury of guitar, piano, bass and beat that just when you think has worn itself out comes back for one last snarl. The next track was another available to preview online: Just One Drink is a melding of White’s usual blues with a Southern tinged floozy of a piano and a repetitive beat which makes this a delightful up tempo romp, the lyrics delivered clear and joyous seem born of unrequited love and drinking to forget –
“You drink water,
I drink gasoline,
One of us is happy,
One of us is mean,
I love you but honey,
Why don’t you love me?”
There is no lull as the quality of tracks remains sky high throughout the next two continuing the album’s move away from White’s usual strong guitar and putting an intense warm piano melody up front along with his voice which is strong, rich and emotive: these tracks feel the most open, insightful and poetic of Lazaretto, although the lyrical content throughout is vibrantly expressive it is impossible to hold up any tracks being the star in the galaxy. “The ghosts that visit me the most, Drop by cause they know they can find me here” White sings as the track Alone In My Home builds, drops then chimes and tinkles with an increasing rapidity that suddenly abates and vanishes. Entitlement feels, as the intro twinkles and stretches awakes, like a lazy day whinge “Not one single person on God’s golden shore is entitled to one single thing, We don’t deserve a single damn thing”. White is not aggressive or vociferous, just sweetly factual.
A feisty riff and an arrangement awash with movement and depth is That Black Bat Liquorice. It demands attention as it undulates, lurches back and forth. On I Think I Found My Culprit the notes pulsate a marching beat as the female vocals hum a soft melody: White voice cuts in sweet and clear
“Two crumbs on my window sill,
Two birds sitting there perfectly still,
One of them up to no good,
The other one doing what he totally should.”
Has the veil of pain fallen from his eyes? Can he see clearly again? Can he see where the blame lies? The final track Want And Able returns to the narrative style White used so effectively on Blunderbuss with an eloquent country waltz, the song is a twisted poem born of self reflection –
“Who is the who telling who what to do,
tell me who tell me, who tell me who”
The lyrics sway from blame, regret and maybe even an the answers to his questions or at least a conclusion to them –
“Now want and able are two different things,
One is desire and the other is the means,
Like I want to hold you and see you and feel you in my dreams,
But that’s not possible something simply will not let me.”
Lazaretto is so darn charismatic, while it lacks the painfully sweet darkness of Blunderbuss, it’s packed with richly diverse musical styles that sheer skill in arrangement and playing have created along with lyrics that run from introspective, playful and seductive via questioning, annoyed and curious. It’s an album that can be played again and again for you’ll be forever finding new charms. If Blunderbuss is the album you play when heartbroken – Lazaretto is the one you play when you’re done crying.
Lazaretto is release on June 9th 2014 but can be pre-ordered now from a variety of retailers as an Ultra LP, CD and/or DL. The Ultra LP is the standard vinyl version of Lazaretto and sports more than a few special features including hidden tracks, reverse playing vinyl and is the first of its kind to come complete with its own hologram angel. All the details and how to access them is explained by Jack White and Third Man Records Ben Blackwell in an informative video you can find here. Jack White is on tour this summer stopping off in the UK for just two dates taking to the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury (Saturday June 28th) and at London’s Eventim Apollo on Thursday July 3rd (the date having been changed from July 5th due to a schedule conflict).