I was a sophomore in high school when The White Stripes’ Elephant first blew up. With Jack and Meg’s heavy blues-rock jams, Elephant was the Stripes album that I first fell in love with, which is something that I’m sure a lot of people can say (except those cooler indie kids, of course, who knew about them from Day One). I was in college when Icky Thump, the duo’s last release, somehow successfully made bagpipes in rock music sound cool. They still had it! But then Meg fell off the face of the earth and Jack went off and formed two new bands—The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. And although I enjoyed these groups to an extent, they just weren’t the Stripes. No matter how much I wanted to love the music in the same way, it wasn’t doing it for me. He just wasn’t making the kinds of albums I needed him to make anymore and my attention went elsewhere.
But then a month or two ago, when I heard he was releasing a solo album, I wondered if this could be it—the album I’ve been waiting for. Although Blunderbuss isn’t exactly what I was expecting from Jack’s first solo album, I am fairly smitten. Before the album even came out, I heard “Sixteen Saltines” and remembered hoping to god that this was what the rest of the album sounded like. Those explosive guitar riffs floored and had me hooked. And although this isn’t at all what the rest of the album sounds like, the album is still quite fantastic. It’s also one of the most musically diverse albums I’ve ever heard. “Love Interruption,” which takes practically a 180 from “Sixteen,” is a kind of sexy duet between Jack and Nashville singer-songwriter Ruby Amanfu. Jack really couldn’t have picked a better singer to team up with for the song, as their voices meld together so perfectly. “Trash Tongue Talker,” which, again, sounds completely different, takes on a bit of a Rolling Stones feel and the title track has hints of Neil Young in it.
So how did Jack come to have such an eclectic, wide-ranging album? First, he used different studio musicians for each of the songs. Some bands were all men, some all women and some were mixed. Some days he would walk into the studio in the morning to meet with the other musicians he’d called in for the day without having a single note written and have to just come up with songs on the spot. He also claims that he didn’t necessarily start out with the mission of recording a whole album and that it just kind of happened. However it came about, I’d say Blunderbuss has filled a void in the Jack White catalog in a way that I definitely didn’t expect.