Album Review: Jack White “Lazaretto” (2014)

Jack White has had a very diverse music career and is what I would describe as a bit of a musical chameleon of sorts. He had great success with the White Stripes, whilst also intermittently moving between off-shoot projects such as the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather. The beauty of following Jack White is that you don’t really know what he is thinking and where he will go next musically, making his career an intriguing watch as much as anything. With this in mind, he has now moved on to a solo career, releasing his debut solo album in 2012 Blunderbuss which was a solid first-up effort that encompassed many different styles. It is now 2014 and again White has another album out, his second solo offering Lazaretto. And although there are some good tracks on here, the results end up being a little bit underwhelming.

White again mixes up the sounds on this album, with blues rock, garage, alternative and country all making appearances in various guises. White has been known to speak of his songwriting methods and how he never has a pre-set plan of making an album but simply records what he feels like at the time, and this is perhaps why his first two solo records sound so diverse musically and do not follow any set patterns. Lazaretto starts up with a storming track the bluesy rocker “Three Women” which on first listening perhaps could be deemed one of his best. It certainly gets the album off to a positive start with its sizzling organ and playfulness lyrically and musically. The title track “Lazaretto” follows next and is a typical White garage rocker that congers up early White Stripes with its heavy guitar riffing and pounding drums. It is nice enough as a track but falls a bit flat as it doesn’t really explore any new musical ground and ends up being a bit pedestrian. On “Temporary Ground” White goes all country/singer-songwriter as he often has a tendency to do, and is accompanied on vocals by one of the members of his all-female backing band, with a bit of fiddle thrown in for good measure, while “Would You Fight for My Love” is a mysterious almost dark track with a bit of a psychedelic rock feel to it in what is one of the stronger tracks on the record. The first half of the album then ends with an instrumental “High Ball Stepper” which does nothing for me, and “Just One Drink” which has a country-blues vibe to it with a good sing-along line about drinking, what could be better.

The second half of the album begins with “Alone in My House” which brings out Whites softer country side again while also showcasing some thunderous piano playing, a strong feature of the album. White sounds good when he dives into the country-folk area and I am still waiting for the day he records a full country/Americana album. However, it is at this point where the record begins to flounder a bit, starting with “Entitlement” a country ballad which although sweet is a bit predictable. This is followed by “That Black Bat Licorice” which returns to the heavy guitars of the title track, but with less success in what is quite a high-intensity number that moves in all sorts of directions. The album finally comes to an end with “I think I Found the Culprit” a filler type track that sees White moving in an alt-country direction this time and “Want and Able”, yet another country ballad with the ingenious lyric (insert sarcasm) “who is the who telling who what to do”. By this point, I am afraid it sounds like White is running out of ideas both lyrically and musically, with this track sounding a bit like a good warm-up studio track but nothing more.

So in conclusion, I would say that Lazaretto is an album with flashes of brilliance and small moments that make you sit up and take notice, but these are few and far between, with side one being the best half of the album before it eventually falls away. At this point I am still waiting for Jack White to deliver an entire album of good material, or should I say a complete musical statement that measures up to his reputation as a twenty-first-century rock master, something he has so far failed to do on his first two solo outings.

– Sam

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