It happens in all art forms. There’s always a band, or TV show, or book which you should like based on genre or theme or subject matter or whatever else normally totes floats your boats. Only this time, you don’t. For some reason, known or unknown, chemical reaction is denied. To paraphrase the well-known trope: sometimes the heart doesn’t want what it doesn’t want.
I doesn’t want The White Stripes.
I’m not entirely sure why, since I like many of their songs (particularly from their last three albums). But never do I think to myself, “Gee, what am I in the mood to listen to this fine day? By jiminy, I’ve got it! The White Stripes!” (What, never? No, never!) Nor do my ears yearn for other Jack White vehicles such as The Raconteurs or Dead Weather. Now, based on lyrics and music and wicked guitar-nastics—hell, even based on nothing but cover art—I should like all of Jack White’s records. In the documentary It Might Get Loud, this scene alone, where he builds an electric guitar from a couple of pieces of wood, a few nails, a Coke bottle and some wire, should have made me want him in my life all the live long day. But sadly—in a great blow to my hip, tastemaking credentials—I never have.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying I love Jack White’s first solo album. Admittedly, it took me a few weeks to even listen to Blunderbuss since, initially, I didn’t actually like the first two songs I saw him perform on SNL and The Colbert Report. Something drew me back to give it a try, though, and I decided to spin track 10, “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy”—mostly because it sounded like “Hippopotamus Poor Boy,” which, if intentional—please let it be intentional—shows Jack White’s sense of humor, something that doesn’t always come through. Anyway, that track’s insistent rhythms trapped themselves in my brain months ago and have yet to let go. So I delved . . .
And delving further into the album reaps a rich harvest of sounds. Anyone familiar with The White Stripes knows Jack can pull off some mighty fine guitar stunts, and he does so here, nailing riffs and solos like Evel Knievel soaring over stacks of cars, but I didn’t expect funkiness. (And he’s plenty funky.) Nor did I expect such an emphasis on keyboards—the Fender Rhodes in particular adds warm colors and textures to the sound while the piano lends both drama and sprightliness.
The music moves like a living, breathing thing, crackling with a kind of polished electricity as White deftly blends modern and classic rock. The production gives everything an old-school, analog atmosphere making you feel like you’re right there in the studio with the band. (In between everything else, Blunderbuss also rocks.)
What does this all mean then? Damn it all, it means I now have to go back and re-evaluate my feelings. So thanks a lot, Jack White. You made me feel! I didn’t want to do it. But you made me ♥ you.