I know just what you’re thinking: I’d sure like another belated review of that Jack White record from March.
Don’t worry, I’m more than happy to help.
You bet your ass I was a White Stripes fan. The hits, the deep cuts, the colors, the concert docs– I was into all of it. It was a great introduction to minimalist music, blues, and the filthy roots of punk.
Friends and family knew me as a fan of all things Jack White. And back in March I got plenty of texts asking for thoughts on the new full-length.
I knew nothing about it. Hadn’t heard there was a new one on its way out. Nothing. But after 5 or so listens spread out over work, home, and public transit, I have a few things to say on the subject.
I have tried and failed to get anywhere near the headspace of Mr. White, as a way to help understand the new work. It just doesn’t work. The guy lives in the woods, or wherever the hell else he wants, at the drop of a very expensive hat. He owns at least one Tesla. Bob Dylan comes by his house to fix up the fence. And maybe most importantly, he is the Last Great Rockstar..
There’s no way for me to know what the guy wants at this point. The legacy is secure, friendo. Might I suggest burning out rather than fading away.
Boarding House Reach isn’t bad, exactly. That’s not quite it. In fact, it’s hard to put any labels on it at all, and maybe that somehow makes it good? No, I can’t go that far.
There are albums that have found something, a sounds, a message, a tone, and each song shares it with the listener. Then there are albums that are searching for something. And that’s where Boarding House lands.
The most obvious evidence is the range of styles across these 13 tracks. We’ve got barnstompers, teary-eyed ballads, and experimental tracks that make me wish I’d never made a pact against using the word ‘angular’ in a music review.
And those weird ones are probably my favorites. Just a personal preference. “Respect Commander” for example, is this nice little jewel of incredibly specific sounds and textures that reminds me of absolutely nothing else I can think of right now, and that’s an accomplishment.
Then there’s “Why Walk a Dog?” which serves as little else than a showcase for Jack’s new guitar pedal (sounds like an Earthquaker Data Corrupter to me, with a PLL tracking circuit). Is it just here to help get to 13 songs, ‘cuz he thought it would be cool to have 13 songs? You and I both know he’s not above that kind of gimmicky bullshit. We all remember Elephant and its slavish devotion to the number 3.
By the end of each listen, I inevitably think of the 2008 documentary, It Might Get Loud, in which Jack, the Edge, and Jimmy Page just talk about guitars and themselves for a couple hours. Jack touts the importance of limiting yourself creatively: “What can I do with 3 strings on a guitar instead of 6? [rest of quote]”
What are the limitations of a millionaire who has his own label, his own studio, a slew of custom-built instruments, and a pool of talented musicians who all want their names in the liner notes of a Jack White album?
Maybe it’ll grow on me, suddenly, while driving to a launch party for a new brand of yogurt or something. Maybe then it’ll click. But for now, it’s staying out of my playlists and therefore out of my life.