I first heard White at summer camp. One of the girls in my bunk received a care package from her brother whose band was touring America and who had been sending us mix tapes all summer long. Stuck between The Strokes and Pulp was a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breaking Down” performed by The White Stripes.
Ten something years later and White is no longer singing about puppy love or peppermints, and I’m staring at a computer screen listening to his first solo album Blunderbuss on iTunes. After hearing the album in its entirety, I’ve come to the conclusion that Jack White is a modern day Hemingway.
In the novel “Islands in the Stream” Hemingway wrote, “He had to train himself not to quarrel with women anymore and he had learned not to get married. These two things had been nearly as difficult to learn as how to settle down and paint in a steady and well-ordered way. But he had learned them, and he hoped that he had learned them permanently.”
Why these words weren’t inscribed in the cd jacket sleeve is beyond me.
Women play a huge role in Blunderbuss, and to us who only get a peek behind his heavily veiled personal life, we have to assume why. Between formally announcing the split of The White Stripes early last year with confidante Meg White and the very formal split with his ex-wife Karen Elson, who lends her voice as backup in a number of tracks, there seems to be a lot of emotions that are being hashed out. Despite this, White has gone on the record numerous times to confirm that Blunderbuss is anything but a break-up album.
Regardless of the sentiments that fueled lyrics like “I know the feeling’s strong, strong enough to forget about all that I’ve been through” in “Hypocritical Kiss,” or “She don’t care what color bruises that she’s leaving on me, she’s got freedom in the 21st century” in “Freedom at 21,” this album is more about telling a story than pointing fingers. And maybe that’s what we’re all missing.
In a culture so intoxicated with being in the know, we’re trained to automatically read between the lines instead of seeing what’s in front of us. Since the beginning, Jack White has been a storyteller, so why would his solo album not be engulfed by that trait?
Aside from the lyrics, the album is packed with riffs that will earworm their way into your brain for the better part of a week with songs like “I’m Shakin’.” White is also accompanied by an array of talented musicians like pianist Brooke Waggoner on “Weep Themselves to Sleep” in which her chords play out like a feverish dream. “Hip (eponymous) Poor Boy” sounds like it is from a lost Bob Dylan session, because what he’s channeling in that song, both lyrically and musically, is wicked. Blunderbuss is one hell of a rock record; be lucky he’s letting us all listen in.