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Jack White’s newest album as scattered as his persona

Written By Amanda Myers, Staff Writer

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As reviews trickled in before the release of Jack White’s third solo album on Friday, one word stuck out amongst headlines: weird.

If you are familiar with White and his thoughtfully constructed Tim Burton-like persona, the word doesn’t feel far off.  White has never been one to stand in line with the rest of the industry.  His voice, unfiltered and nuanced, has stayed persistent since his work with The White Stripes, and continues on the disconnected puzzle that is his newest project, “Boarding House Reach.”

Weird, wacky and wobbly are just some of the adjectives that capture the tone of the record.  Elaborate sections of the tracks merge contradicting sounds like bongos and screeching guitar.  White goes full on 90s rap god at moments, turning to sweet country boy in a wink.

This mishmosh of identity feels intentional for a musician at the crossroads of indie glory and super stardom.  Facing this, White tosses aside expected direction by creating his own road map.

A new rockstar breed is developed with apex of the album, “Over and Over and Over.”  White battles through the elements as his “shoulder holds the weight of the world.”  It’s a gospel tinged head banger if there ever was one and will make for an earth-shaking live performance.

While this song encapsulates White at the height of his guitar powers, this ambition falls flat on lead single and opener “Connected By Love.”  What should be a gateway for ensuing grooves is instead a slow burning, miscommunicated message.

Outside of looking at his life and the obstacles he has faced, the Detroit musician also tackles trials of our consumerist society.  White is famous for his backlash of technology, brilliantly banning phones at recent concerts to form an in-the-moment experience.  It may seem odd for an old school guy like White to lament over these trials while simultaneously dipping his toe into Pro Tools.

That’s because it is.

But maybe White doesn’t care about these contradictions in his borderline egotistical music.  He sees the world from a mad scientist point of view and expects the rest of the word to follow suit.      

The track “Everything You’ve Ever Learned” is a perfect example.  It opens with an ominous “Black Mirror” sounding voice that repeats a cryptic phrase again and again. When White’s turn comes, he morphs into a camp counselor gone bonfire-side mad as he rages for listeners to take action.

This commentary extends to the laughable and odd “Why Walk a Dog?”  It’s unclear whether White is making fun of his own prose on the canine species or if he believes every word to be taken seriously.

The technological aspect of his recent work is its strongest come the track “Hypermisophoniac.”

Climbing effects gradually turn him into a video game character leveling up to the next stage.

As a record, “Boarding House Reach” is far from White’s best work, even if it’s his most ambitious.  Interesting areas of technological rock dissolve the backbone of the album and leave White a little lost in the crossfire.  The puzzle pieces need to be re-examined and repositioned to create a cohesive record, even if that was never the intention.

Though White crams sound wherever it can be stuffed, he ends the effort simply, turning sweet and sincere. 

“Humoresque” is a delicate ditty that pitter patters like rain drops on a window and encapsulates a storybook wonder. When White is in this stripped-down state and executes it well, he makes the bells and whistles look unnecessary and exaggerated by default.

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