Release Date: Jun 10, 2014
Record label: Columbia / Third Man Records
A-fucking-men to that..
You have to wonder when Jack White finds time to do normal things like eat and sleep. It would be more understandable if some of the stuff he wrote, played on or put out was shit or sounded like a halfhearted concession to some kind of contractual obligation, but if the 11 songs on his second solo album Lazaretto are any indication, it’s going to be a long time before White starts running out of steam and ideas. The sexually charged version of “Three Women” that opens the album puts the listener on notice that as far as Jack White’s concerned, no matter whatever else has changed in the world since Blind Willie McTell wrote the song in 1928, the dynamics between men and women haven’t shifted an inch.
In JWIII terms, Lazaretto’s gestation has been gargantuan. The guitarist laboured over it for a year and half – some 36 times longer than The White Stripes’ Elephant took to record. And while it’s certainly no more or less layered, complex or revealing than his first solo album (nor has White himself taken a break from from touring with other side projects or expanding his Third Man record label), it suggests an absorption of influences that might otherwise have previously flown by too fast to catch.
Like "blunderbuss," a "lazaretto" is an ancient reference that means little in the modern world, a fact that does not escape Jack White, a musician who specializes in blurring lines between past and present. Contrary to his carefully cultivated persona as a raider of lost Americana, White never, ever was a purist: he thrived upon seizing the precise moment when accepted definitions lose all meanings and turn into something new. This tension surfaces on Lazaretto, his second solo album, a record that lives upon the edges of his interests.
Jack White makes heavy, turbulent modern-blues records the same way he pursues his other passion, furniture restoration: with a decisive attention to contour, color scheme and cagey, durable detail. "Three Women," the opening rumble on Lazaretto, is based (with a co-writing credit) on Blind Willie McTell's 1928 recording "Three Women Blues. " But White's spin on McTell's overload of lovin' is a thorough redesign in density and rhythmic combat: stop-start bursts of bull-elephant march tightly rigged with coughing organ, a power-rock riff hammered on piano and White yelping "Lordy Lord!" – quoting McTell in 1933's "Broke Down Engine" – against skidding pedal-steel guitar.
There’s a strange quaver in Jack White’s voice, a loud, keening vibration that carries with it more than a hint of madness. It’s like some lost descendant of Little Richard’s hoot or Jerry Lee Lewis’ growl, the first sounds that warned the world that great rock ’n’ roll could escalate, in a second, from the ecstatic to the depraved. For White, it’s a signature sound, one he uses early and often on his second solo album, “Lazaretto.” The glint in his voice helps make this a wilder and harder work than White’s solo debut from two years ago, “Blunderbuss.” In that sense, it has more in common with the star’s blues-rock outbursts with his first great band White Stripes.
On the one hand this is definitely, definitively, and undeniably a Jack White record, with everything that implies: the blues licks, the country twists, the balance of stompy, stroppy riffs and gorgeous, hooky melodies, the guitar solos like an angry spider skittering across the scales, the lyrics that baffle and delight equally. All the stuff you like, all the bits that make Jack White, well, Jack White. But that’s not all there is.
Atypically for Jack White, who used to throw White Stripes records together in weeks, his second solo album took a year and a half to make. Does the relative sluggishness of the process come out in the material? Not a bit. Lazaretto, named after a place of quarantine for sailors, hurtles between moods and tempos, often within the same song. The title track squeals and yowls like a stir-crazy sea dog, before downshifting into sludge-rock, then breaking out the violins.
Jack White doesn’t take two years to make an album. Jack White retires to his shed in Nashville, and returns twenty minutes later, reel of tape in hand, ready to waltz down to the pressing plant to release a 7-inch record the next week. And yet here’s ‘Lazaretto’. Recorded between 2012 and 2014, written using 19-year-old White’s short stories, performed with various synthesisers and even including the word “digital” - surely a first for a man whose lyrics usually live in about 1940 – it shouldn’t be a Jack White record.
Has there been a public apology more obviously delivered through gritted teeth than Jack White's recent "statement to clear up the negativity surrounding things I've said"? At risk of being accused of the "tabloid journalism" White so decries at its conclusion, it's hard to avoid the sensation there's something just a tiny little bit passive-aggressive about, say, its wilfully superfluous extending of good wishes not merely to the Black Keys, but the Black Keys' record label, the Black Keys' producer, every musician who's ever worked with the Black Keys and, in the final paragraph, literally every musician who's ever achieved any degree of success whatsoever at any point in the history of the world. Perhaps this is a terrible misjudgment of tone, but it somehow doesn't seem like the work of a man ruefully reconsidering his opinions. Rather, you somehow picturing him typing it – or writing it on palimpsest vellum with a quill or however Jack White drafts his public apologies in a suitably period manner – with his face like a beetroot and his mouth pursed in a cat's bum of disapproval.
With all the kerfuffle and hubbub plaguing Jack White, from the curmudgeonly grump-fest spewed at a swathe of musicians (including Lana Del Rey, Adele and The Black Keys), the subsequent apology, and the gimmick-riddled Record Store Day antics, it’s easy to forget what made White a living legend in the first place. Well, yes, The White Stripes, but more generally, his music. A modern-day master of the six-stringer, he’s torn straight from the annals of history, back when rock was rawk and guitars were for shredding with aplomb rather than gently fingering (*snigger*).
Jack White's latest is chock full of bluesy soul and steps right into that blurry territory between Detroit rocker and Nashville troubadour that White has staked out as his own. It's better than his first solo effort, 2012's Blunderbuss, a record that never quite seemed to meet the expectations of his earliest White Stripes fans, but listeners who grew to love The White Stripes' blistering minimalism just might grow to love the big-band soul coming from Lazaretto. Typically known for putting out records in a matter of weeks, White began writing and recording Lazaretto in 2012.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Ironically for The Third Man label founder, he has been breaking US vinyl records since the release of his second solo album. The champion of vinyl, totem of tape and all-round retro rebel had to compromise slightly on this album and was forced to dabble in the dark art that is ProTool. Panic not, for he printed the edit back on tape when he had finished.
Whenever he talks about the White Stripes, Jack White always stresses Meg White’s importance to the band—and how could he not? She was the only other person up on stage. In the current issue of Rolling Stone, he says, “I would often look at her onstage and say, ‘I can’t believe she’s up here.’ I don’t think she understood how important she was to the band, and to me and to music. She was the antithesis of a modern drummer.
Asked in a recent Rolling Stone interview about his alleged “woman problem,” Jack White counters that he has “worked with more women than anyone you’ll ever meet” and—now here’s the kicker—dismissively and offensively adds “that chick who wrote that article — and I say chick on purpose” can’t differentiate between Jack White and the characters in his song. Those quotes ring especially powerful in light of Lazaretto’s opener Three Women, which begins with the lyrics “I’ve got three women/red, blonde, and brunette. ” Character or not, that the song ends with White/his character proclaiming “Yeah, I know what you're thinking/What gives you the right?/Well, these women must be getting something/Cause they come and see me every night” does not bode well for White; it reads instead as the first proud and self-aware declaration of entitlement, a theme that runs throughout the album.
At its core, the recent “feud” between Jack White and the Black Keys is really only one thing: hilarious. White’s complaints about that Akron duo ripping off his sound—which he since apologized for—are, at best, marginally true. Though groups like the White Stripes and the Black Keys have come up with some creative ideas in their time, the nature of the rock revival movement itself is that it is heavily reliant on tropes and song structures lifted from the golden era of classic rock.
Jack White has always crammed his music and lyrics with riddles and red herrings, and it’s helped make him a continually interesting artist. It’s no different with ‘Lazaretto’, a second solo album that’s as musically eccentric and original as its predecessor, ‘Blunderbuss’, covering rock, soul, funk, country, folk and bar-room blues, sometimes within the same track. He says the songs are adapted from plays and short stories that he penned when he was 19 and, if you run with that theme, ‘Alone In My Home’ becomes a stompier version of The Beach Boys’ ‘In My Room’ – pure teenage self-effacement.
Jack White's recent swipe at the Black Keys—an inveterate impersonator calling out his own supposed imitators—seems on the surface like an irrelevant bit of infighting, the old pro guarding his territory against aggressive young upstarts. Conveniently timed to the release of Lazaretto, however, it's less a trifling jab than a statement of intent, a reminder of White's self-appointed status as modern rock's designated old soul. This is especially pertinent considering the content of the album, which finds him moving away from roots-rock influences and more toward a personalized style that nominally incorporates those influences.
Weeks before the release of Lazaretto, Jack White caused a minor splash in the music press when he called the Black Keys' music "watered-down. " Although these comments may hold a shred of truth, they only place further pressure on White to create something exceedingly special with Lazaretto. As his 2012 solo debut Blunderbuss demonstrated, White no longer seems interested in (or capable of) matching the shrewd songwriting style that defined the White Stripes, opting to fill those gaps with quirky effects and charming melodies.
Who can blame Jack White for all his playing, creating, curating, and refurbishing? An increasing number of people are interested in the history of pre-WWII American music; there are enough of them, anyway, that the recent New York Times Magazine cover story about blues legends Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas wasn’t that out of the ordinary. When White undertakes something like the Paramount Records Wonder-Cabinet (an 800-song archival project featuring everyone from Louis Armstrong to Charlie Patton and Son House), his dream for the preservation of such music seems as necessary as it does purist. The acceleration of music production, including the unfathomable swell of the untold thousands of SoundCloud users, is leaving even the most historic music in the figurative and literal dust.
When some young college professor gets the idea to teach a class on Jack White – and let’s be real, this reality isn’t that far off – they’re going to reserve a whole semester-long unit for Lazaretto. Maybe that sounds like a load of fanboy gushing, but make no mistake: On first impression, this is White’s least musically engaging album since anything pre-Elephant, a possible disappointment for anyone craving one unhinged guitar solo after another. But after a few more listens, the record – White’s second LP as a solo artist and forty-fifth (!) as producer – begins to function like his Nashville-based Third Man Records and novelties storefront: with each visit, one notices more strangely enticing details that reveal an understated genius similar to that of some literary treasure like the The Great Gatsby.
Once one of the most innovative artists in garage rock, Jack White is now focusing most of his creativity on vinyl distribution gimmicks and deluxe packaging for his tunes. Unfortunately, his actual music sounds more and more like typical retro blues rock. Considering how worried he is about the Black Keys ripping him off, it's odd that he doesn't mind how much he's starting to sound like the Black Crowes.
1. Jack on Meg “She was the antithesis of a modern drummer. So childlike and incredible and inspiring.”. “She is a strong female presence in rock and roll, and I was not intending to slight her either, only to explain how hard it was for us to communicate…”.
Jack White’s best songs, presented in whatever incarnation currently strikes him, have always shared a sense of confident desperation—he’s a bad motherfucker and he knows it, but he’s never done proving it to the rest of the world. That’s part of the reason every record he’s been a part of—from The White Stripes’ unassailable catalog to The Raconteurs and Dead Weather to his relatively recent solo jaunts—feels like an event. His albums are utterly alive, and when the songwriting lives up to that crackling energy, something special happens.
Consider the wonder and magic of conjuring a song from the ether. Creating from a mix of oxygen, blood, water and energy a few minutes of something real, something melodically memorable, something as durable as the architecture surrounding us and the technology enveloping us. "Temporary Ground," off Jack White's new solo album, "Lazaretto," is an insta-classic ode to the fleeting beauty of life, delivered through fiddle, acoustic guitar, piano, pedal steel, voice and heart.
Jack White Lazaretto (Third Man/Columbia Records) Through the Raconteurs and Dead Weather, past the White Stripes, Jack White's given off a decidedly Prince-like vibe: genius multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, sharp dresser, off-kilter musical architect getting stranger all the time in the Paisley Park-style laboratory of his Third Man Records complex in Nashville. Lazaretto spring-loads such a dense vortex of ideas and sounds you'd best duck when the kitchen sink comes flying. Recorded with a mix of the gender-exclusive groups White toured with behind 2012 solo debut Blunderbuss, its follow-up once again floats a funky Led Zeppelin, particularly on Lazaretto's title track, seasoned with elements of the Stripes' "Blue Orchid.
On the title track of Lazaretto, his second solo album, Jack White sings of escaping a quarantine station on the Isle of Man. Like many of White's lyrics, his situation could be fictional or the summoning of a past life experience. Over a recurring 12 note progression which doubles as a riff, he outlines his imprisonment in his distinctive tremor: "I have no time left/ Time is lost/ No time at all/ Throw it in a garbage can".
Just as days are both short and long, often dragging and flying in equal measure depending on who they belong to, it’s both unbelievable and completely feasible that Lazaretto is Jack White’s 12th studio album in 15 years. Mind-blowing, because while once an artist would easily knock out a couple of LPs a year (15 years after their own debuts, Bob Dylan was on LP #17, while Paul McCartney was on #21 and Johnny Cash on #26) it’s almost unheard of today, due to the pressures of promotion and touring. Of course, this takes into account White’s time as one half of The White Stripes and a quarter of both The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, while McCartney’s covers Wings too; but with both it’s difficult to dispute the fact that it’s due to the name and the legacy of the frontman that these other projects were so successful.
Jack White is not the bantam rooster prince of the deconstructed blues. Hasn’t been for a while. These days, White is a distillation of Tom Waits’ Luddite-approved technology and a middle-aged science teacher who enjoys freaking out his bored students, all wrapped up in the body of a 21st century, hard-rockin’ dandy well-versed in rock culture and modern couture as he is in antique guitar pedals.
opinion byBRENDAN FRANK Jack White has been behind some of the fiercest and most memorable guitar work this side of Y2K. Affixed with distinctive levels of command and distortion, it’s been the constant during his tenure as the last scion of blues rock. As a solo artist, he’s placed more emphasis on dense arrangements and style-mashing than he has on maintaining his trademark tone.
Jack White got into hot water (yes, again) with a recent Rolling Stone cover story in which he claimed that Meg White, his former White Stripes partner, never supported him the way he had wanted, and reiterated his contention that the Black Keys have cut and pasted his sound. The subsequent eye-rolling prompted White to explain and apologize — well, sort of — on his website. Truth is, his only crime was saying that stuff on the record.
There are a lot of words on “Lazaretto,” Jack White’s new solo album, about needing control or needing to relinquish it. They’re tightly wound and threaten to wrest your attention from the music. This is not a bad thing, as his music seems to be going through an uncomfortable relationship ….
Jack White’s new solo album, Lazaretto, is first and foremost a continuation of an immensely prolific career. In addition to founding three commercially successful bands since 1998, White started his own label (Third Man Records), releasing and/or producing 45 albums through it. Lazaretto is sure to soak up the same attention as his previous works, with inevitable comparisons to late White Stripes (specifically Icky Thump) and his first solo LP, 2012’s Blunderbuss.