Monday, 9 June 2014

Album Review - Lazaretto

by Jack White (out now)

Oh Jack, oh is totally mind blowing to me that it was two years ago I heard the first notes of Jack White's first solo album Blunderbuss and fell completely and totally in love with an album I have played countless times since. I can remember the exact moment I heard those lyrics of 'Love Interruption' which became some of my all time favourites and the desperate need to hear the tracks played live, which I got to experience at Splendour In The Grass that same year. Music is funny, because while at the time that album was an escape, now it is an album that takes me back to the exact time I was trying to escape, which in hindsight, was actually a lot better than I probably realised at the time. Which brings us to the second solo release from a man of rock who seems to cause a little interesting publicity in some circles and yet still fly under the mainstream radar in others, but a man, who, regardless of whether you love him or hate him, certainly knows his rock and how to enjoy it. 

When the opening notes of Lazaretto burst out of my speakers in a barrage of cymbals and percussion, it's like the two years between albums never happened. I am immediately taken away from any exact time and space and here I am again, floating around in a cloud of sound and welcomed into the world of Jack White, familiar in all it's feelings and comfortable in it's place. It's a world I love to escape to and one I know I'll always be at home in. The themes are the same, love wanted, love fought, love won, love lost, the arrogance only an artist with the talent of Mr White dare show, but when someone is this confident with their talent and can back it up with the product, then how can anyone complain? It's interesting, because if someone like Kanye or pop stars like One Direction were to come out with the lines Jack does on opening track 'Three Women', I would be left with a slightly unpleasant taste in my mouth, but there's something about the presentation on Lazaretto that makes it less distasteful. Is it the overriding guitar riffs? Is it the pounding drums? I don't know, but it's probably the pedigree that goes with recording such an album that makes it all the more pleasant and well, once you're a fan of someone these aren't questions you need to ask yourself anyway, are they? 

Title track 'Lazaretto' is like a visit to all the places I was taken on Blunderbuss, the familiarity a comfort and the ending is begging to be heard live (which I am begging my fellow blogger Matt to witness when he hits Glastonbury this year!), 'High Ball Stepper' was an interesting track to tease the world with as a first taste of this album, but now hearing the instrumental in the middle of the album I can see how it fits perfectly amongst the Lazaretto journey. 'Would You Fight For My Love' is an immediate call to battle, the sounds as dramatic as the title and after four minutes of fighting guitar and piano, well, the answer is yes Jack, to answer your question, as a matter of fact I would. Er...

The riffs of 'That Black Bat Licorice' takes us to a Jack White of the past, which is never that far away, but one that is a little angrier, a little more angsty and a little more arrogant (yes, it's possible) and that's a Jack I'll always love. 'Alone In My Home' is proof of the fact that an incredible songwriter is an incredible songwriter, regardless of genre, for this is one that would be at home on a pop record, at home on a country album, slow it down for a ballad or speed it up for harder rock, it's a song that could transcend genre and audience easily.

I could talk about all the tracks one by one, how 'Entitlement' has such a beautiful arrangement, how 'Just One Drink' tackles a complex topic and turns it into a nursery rhyme swing, I could write a thousand words, I could say a thousand things and explain the thousand ways I consider myself a fan, but ultimately, what we have here is a Jack White album. It's an album that oozes confidence and so it should, Jack White is a man that knows the industry he is involved in, knows how to play it and knows how to write the rules his way, but he's also an artist that backs up all of those things with some incredible talent, someone who understands what he loves, who knows how to pay tribute to the American rock style without sounding old, who smothers his blues music in meaning and indulges his love of country in a way that nurtures and delights it. Above all of this, for me, he is an artist who creates music that does exactly what music should; some days it defines me and sometimes it lets me escape, some days it lets me enjoy it and sometimes it asks the questions I spend so much energy trying to avoid. Lazaretto does what all my favourite artists and albums do, just like he sings on 'Temporary Ground'; I find myself

...moving without motion, screaming without sound...

and only my very favourite artists and albums manage to make me feel that. Lazaretto, like the others, you know exactly what I'm going to say. Oh Jack, oh sigh....

Jo Michelmore gives Lazaretto five Jack White heads out of five...

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