With Jack White’s new solo album “Lazaretto” being released in the next few months, it is hard to say what should be expected after his last attempt at solo work with the album Blunderbuss. Although Blunderbuss was unique in its own way, it wasn’t filled with the fierce, raw, and gritty tone that came with White’s previous projects. It’s not to say Blunderbuss didn’t have some songs that ripped, but after “Freedom At 21” the album mellowed out considerably until “I’m Shakin’” kicked in five tracks later. With the balance of the album slowly and softly concluding, Blunderbuss left something to be desired when listening to it more than once.
Regardless of how you felt about Blunderbuss, Jack White has an incredible ability to deliver a distinct and intoxicating sound. His versatility as a musician is undeniable. White can pick up anything that resembles an instrument and fill the room with a magnificent combination of passion and talent.
With every new project came a new sound noticeably different from the others prior; but the hints or slide guitar, sludgy rhythm sections, and interludes of carefully placed feedback showed White was present. These are the five moments during Jack Whites career when we wished the volume on our speakers went up to 11.
5. The White Stripes
Jack White joined up with Meg White in 1997. They grabbed an electric guitar, a drum set, and a mic; then brought the noise. With their debut album “The White Stripes” in 1999, Blues met Punk and Garage Rock for the first time.
The result was an ear splitting sound that left everyone struggling to believe such a simplified setup could have so much depth. It was the powerfully quick punk progressions, the intertwining blues lines spanning the entire length of the fret board, and the rock solid drum beats that made the White Stripes special. A perfect example of this sound can be found in the song “Screwdriver” off their debut album.
As the White Stripes evolved they became more dynamic. The songs were more structured than in their original albums, but that isn’t to say they were boring. It’s instances such as “There’s No Home for You Here” off the album “Elephants” that leave you shell-shocked; A solid guitar riff transitions into a soothing melodic verse to then abruptly be followed by screaming feedback and harmonizing vocals.
The listener is left wondering if their eardrums were still functional, but it’s that unpredictability that kept you listening. The endless depth of the White Stripes creativity is why they were able to produce six albums that can be listened to time and time again without disappointment.
4. The Raconteurs
After eight years of frantically rocking in a duo band, it seems like Jack White had a moment to take a breath with The Raconteurs. By joining this band he finally had a new support system in the form of four other musicians. He was no longer solely responsible for producing 75% of the bands stage presence and 95% of the musical content. This new found freedom appeared to let White start to experiment more with vocals, but more specifically; with a male vocalist for the first time; Brendan Benson.
On the album “Broken Boy Soldier” White and Benson had their fair share of songs when they each took lead for vocals. But it was when they paired up throughout nearly the entire song that they produced an incredible composition. Intimate Secretary, Level, and Store Bought Bones are excellent examples of how White and Benson could switch between singing similar styles to opposite styles flawlessly. Both vocal techniques complimented each other incredibly well and added a new layer of complexity to White’s already established artistic portfolio.
3. The Dead Weather
Grab these two albums, put them on repeat, and let them play forever. There is not one song on either “Horehound” or “Sea of Cowards” that makes you compelled to skip to the next. The Dead Weather brings a dark, haunting, and aggressive tone to everything they create. Alison Mosshart, originally from The Kills, takes the role as lead vocalist and brilliantly fits the position, but there is no question Jack White is part of this group. Songs like “I Cut Like a Buffalo” and “Old Mary” have the historic Jack White signature. Among most of the tracks you can find hints of White through his legendary scrambled guitar solos, feedback fills, and of course backup vocals; but could he be defined by the drum lines?
White decided to redefine his role as a musician yet again. He signed on to The Dead Weather prominently as a combined drummer/vocalist. Although he contributed to a majority of the song writing and occasionally filled the role he is most known for as guitarist; he spent a large amount of his time blasting out beats. The Dead Weather served as another outlet for White to evolve, and the byproduct was a masterpiece.
2. It Might Get Loud
“Who says you need to buy a guitar?”
Jack White made it clear that he could create a great sound with few resources through his involvement with the White Stripes, but in this documentary White shows how little he really needs to showcase his talents. With a piece of wood, guitar string, glass bottle, a pickup , some nails, and what looks like to be a socket; White belts out a small slide-guitar style riff on the deck of a farmhouse before he casually just plays off his abilities with a snide comment. Apparently White is the MacGyver of music; all hale the diddley bow.
Jack White’s talent for adapting is what distinguishes him as an artist. He finds beauty in the things that most people would consider worthless and lives for the challenge of playing instruments that will produce the most unique sound. The struggle to master an art by only using primitive tools has hardened White, allowing him to perform within any conditions.
This can be seen at the end of the film when White, Jimmy Page, and The Edge have a jam session. White picks up a guitar and rocks aside Jimmy Page without hesitation, while The Edge just looks lost and confused without his wall of effect pedals; leaving him to just sit around holding a silent guitar. From rocking out on a makeshift instrument to playing alongside a classically trained rock legend, Jack White never ceases to deliver.
1. High Ball Stepper
This single couldn’t have made fans more excited for June 10th to arrive. High Ball Stepper is dynamic, haunting, raw, and unique; all without Jack White singing a single syllable. Even while missing the final touch of White’s vocals, this song can be listened to repetitively and leave you with a smile every time.
The main guitar riff makes you want to nod your head to the rhythm and the distorted sections give you the chills. If this is an accurate representation of what can be expected from the rest of the album, White fans are in store for a treat. High Ball Stepper dives right back into that blues dominant format with garage rock overtones that White has perfected.
All fans can do for now is revisit their Jack White collections while they wait, and keep their fingers crossed that this will be another one of White’s defining moments. As more content becomes available closer to June, fans will get a better idea of the direction the album was taken.
Until then, crank your speakers up to 11 and let this incredible single rattle the windows and shake the floor.