When the White Stripes split was announced in February 2011, it wasn’t a surprise. The main reason for that is Jack White‘s continuous involvement in side projects that became more than one-time things: The Raconteurs with Brendan Benson and The Dead Weather with Alison Mosshart from The Kills. Though success was still in the air for Detroit blues-rock star, his performances with both bands had shown he couldn’t shake his habit of stealing the spotlight, being the centre of attention even as a singing drummer in The Dead Weather. He is a born leader and control freak, and after building what one could call a music empire, with his own vinyl-centered label Third Man Records, releasing plenty of exclusive singles with country, blues, folk artists and friends (from Laura Marling to Tom Jones), he finally decided to put his own name on a record, because after trying it all, there was nothing else left to do.
First thing to clear up: Jack White won’t return to the abrasive dirty blues-rock sound that made The White Stripes a music brand on its own, those days are definitely over. Blunderbuss is the album of a mature musician, sometimes so studious it sounds like a demonstration, but tremendously produced and arranged so that even when you wished for a “real” solo escape disc (meaning a guy alone with his guitar, pouring his heart out), you can still have a good time. White’s relation to women is the main topic here: passioned, envious, conflicted, it’s the fuel that makes him go from a romantic pedal-steel covered country ride on ‘Blunderbuss’ to the psychotic teenage outburst rock of ‘Sixteen Saltines’.
On many spots like ‘Weep Themselves to Sleep’ and ‘Hip Poor Boy’ (a follow-up to ‘Rich Kid Blues’ ?), Blunderbuss is a reminder of The Raconteurs’ Consolers For The Lonely, an album where Jack White assumed his story-telling ambition and his country-rock adoration. Now he mastered it, inviting violin, honky-tonk pianos, and cello in most of the songs without sounding retro or old-fashioned at anytime. But the real gem here is single ‘Love Interruption’, a two minutes and a half description of the artist’s twisted and tormented vision of love, going from “I want love to change my friends to enemies, show me how it’s all my fault” to “I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt, or interrupt me”. Blunderbuss is all about those extreme and opposite feelings that music can bring together. Musically, this is not a brand new start for Jack White, it is more of a liberation. That status of rockstar going solo can lead to laziness for many artists but quite frankly, the guy is one of the busiest and focused musicians around today, and this album is a convincing testimony of that.