We are proud to admit that foppish indie bands who struggle to shift a few thousand CDs are our usual review fodder. It is unheard of for us to review an album that is top of the UK and US albums charts at the time of writing. But for Blunderbuss, the solo debut of former White Stripes man Jack White, we will make an exception.
Sure, Blunderbuss has mainstream appeal among classic rock fans. But there’s just the right alternative edge to attract the attention of this foppish blog and to elevate it the above the likes of other stadium sized rock blues acts such as Kings of Leon.
Take the opening bars of the first track Missing Pieces with its disjointed keyboard and guitar riff. It’s by no means a classic rock riff in the Guns and Roses sense, but this odd, unshowy run of notes is what makes this track so effective.
The powerchords that start Sixteen Saltines are simply gloriou. Then for Freedom At 21 the tempo slows slightly and White starts to sound more like Kelley Stoltz, the underrated singer songwriter whose band supported White’s post White Stripes outfit The Raconteurs in 2006. Across the album cliches of rock such as guitar solo-ing are thankfully kept to a minimum, with keyboards taking a front seat.
As a slice of rock n roll I’m Shakin’ is not quite dirty enough to be compared to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, but it has a sense of fun that’s missing from so much of rock these days. There’s even something for Kinks fans here on the ever-so Ray Davies influenced Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy.
And the track Love Interruption is elevated from standard rock ballad to an enjoyable, quirky alternative rock ballad with the addition of some simple clarinet and bass clarinet playing from Emily Bowland.
The album takes a little dip towards the end on the more bluesy Trash Tongue Talker but picks up for the final flourish of Take Me With You When You Go, a kind of a showcase of the album with a wonderful piano swagger. It sounds a little, just a little, like Queen as it picks up towards the end.
This is certainly the best album I’ve heard by White in his various guises and the fact that this album has pricked up the ears of this blog as well as a vast swathe of the global CD and download buying public shows how wide and varied his appeal now is.
To show we are still a little indie blog, despite dipping our toes into the mainstream waters of the album charts, I’d like to recommend Feet Fall Heavy, the second album from England’s Kill It Kid, from last year. It’s probably only sold a few hundred copies but its dirty alternative take on Delta blues is sure to appeal to Jack White’s many new fans.
by Joe Lepper