For as long as he’s been a rock star, Jack White’s been a curious web of contradiction. He slathered The White Stripes in gimmicks to get people to focus more on their music. (But hey, it worked like gangbusters.) He claimed 2003′s Elephant lamented the “death of the sweetheart” in American culture, then a few months after that album dropped, he pled guilty to pounding Jason Stollsteimer’s face. Now, as he’s releasing Blunderbuss, his first solo album, he says this to NPR:
“When you put something out there into the world, there’s all these words you don’t want to hear, that you hope people don’t say…anything that starts with ‘re’ — like retro, reinvent, recreate — I hate that. It’s always like living in the past — copying, emulating.“
Which is funny, because while Jack makes vibrant, fresh-sounding music, he’s always had one foot firmly entangled in the extremely retro roots of American blues, folk, country, rock, punk, and R&B. And on Blunderbuss, he’s arguably more old-timey than ever. His 21st Century guitar fuzz barges in only sporadically. It’s all over the very White Stripes-like garage stomper “Sixteen Saltines,” as well as the very Dead Weather-like mad science of “Freedom At 21.” But elsewhere, aside from a riff here or a solo there, that’s about it. No, despite the fact that its title refers to a kind of rifle, Blunderbuss is not generally loud or explosive. It rocks hardest in “Sixteen Saltines,” which is track 2, then it spends most of its time jazzing, waltzing, and boogeying.