Chip Zepp is featured today in our Throwback Thursday with his thoughts on Jack White’s debut; Blunderbuss. Many will remember when Jack and his band rolled into town two years ago today at Nautica.
Jack White – Blunderbuss (2012)
Jack White is back in the (rock n roll) news. Doesn’t seem that he is ever out of it for very long. While on an “indefinite hiatus” from touring, he’s just released Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016, a twenty-six track career-spanning compilation.
And I saw him at Nautica two years ago this very day.
Since I don’t have Acoustic Recordings (yet), it seemed like a good time to revisit his 2012 solo debut, Blunderbuss. (2012’s top-selling LP per Soundscan at 33,000 copies.)
On his first solo album, White established that he wasn’t interested in merely rehashing the successful style of the White Stripes. As he sings in “On and On and On” – “The people around me won’t let me become what I need to, they want me the same. I look at myself and I want to just cover my eyes and give myself a new name.” Or even more directly in “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” — “let the stripes unfurl.” (The White Stripes officially announced their breakup only a year before the release of Blunderbuss.)
White throws Stripes fans a bone with “Sixteen Saltines,” one of my favorite tracks. But it’s a red herring. Though there are plenty of squawking guitars featured throughout, these songs aren’t about the guitar. Fiddle, mandolin, pedal steel, piano, churchy organ feature more prominently. And White goes mostly acoustic except for the occasional noisy solo.
In an interview, White acknowledged that the album was influenced by the death of a brother. There are some references (explicitly on “Hypocritical Kiss” and the vulture on his shoulder on the album art), but the lyrics reflect on the more traditional rock themes of love – lost and forbidden — and breakups. In a fearless and thrilling way. “Divorce party” or not, it seems that the divorce from Karen Elson – they were married for eight years — hit him harder than he publicly acknowledges. Blunderbuss is more Blood on the Tracks than Tonight’s the Night.
Without the emphasis on squawking guitars and Meg’s bashing, the lyrics and White’s voice (perfectly recorded) are thrust forward to make this plain. Listen to “Missing Pieces,” “Weep Themselves to Sleep,” and “Freedom at 21.”
The title track might be my favorite track on the album. After marriages to Meg White and Karen Elson, White is still singing about one that he couldn’t have.
Almost five years since release and I still haven’t cracked all the secrets of this album. As White intended, the mystery abides.