Track Review: Jack White- Lazaretto





Jack White







Lazaretto is available via:

The album Lazaretto is available to pre-order via:


Three Women- 9.4/10.0

Lazaretto- 9.5

Temporary Ground- 9.2

Would You Fight for My Love?- 9.3

High Ball Stepper- 9.3

Just One Drink- 9.2

Alone in My Home- 9.0

Entitlement- 9.1

That Black Bat Licorice- 9.6

I Think I Found the Culprit- 9.2

Want and Able- 9.1


That Black Bat Licorice


Three Women, Lazaretto, Would You Fight for My Love?, High Ball Stepper, That Black Bat Licorice.




Jack White


Third Man, XL Recordings, Columbia.


Blues/Blues Rock.


Recently, Jack White has found himself resided in music's Court of the Damned- having embroiled himself in controversy (following some ill-considered remarks). Here is the advocate for the defence: a magnetising assault of moonstruck guitars, Blues carnality and lenitive sonic impurity - the verdict is clear-cut.


THE past few months have been turbulent for Detroit's famous son...

Entangled in a tit for tat exchange of words with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach: the two have re-ignited a feud that has been dragging on for a long time now. White attested that The Black Keys have been lazily ripping off his music- agahst of ideas, the duo are mere copycats. Both camps reside in Nashville and have been keeping a wide birth of one another- as wide as you can when you live in the same town. There is validity in White's claims: I have found that The Black Keys tread too carefully and closely to White's Blues Rock template- the same one that he cemented and popularised during the late-'90s/early-'00s. On Turn Blue (The Black Keys' latest album), you would swear that White were playing guitar on certain tracks- It's Up To You Now features a face-shredding riff that could have been lifted straight from Elephant (or Blunderbuss). In spite of some imitation and limitations (on behalf of The 'Keys), there is another side to the argument: Blues and Blues Rock is infamous for its lack of originality. White himself has been culpable of replicating other artists in his work (the guitar melody that features on The White Stripes track Ball and Biscuit is a dead ringer for Bob Dylan's Meet Me in the Morning). Fearful of a truncated battle of words, White has retracted his criticisms and complaints: a détente has been reached (for now). It is a shame that rivalries and copyright issues have marred the musical waters: each act has their own sound and projection when you look at it- overlap and familiarity is always going to occur. When you factor out the truculent spats and verbal pugilism,  only one thing should remain: the validity and worthiness of Jack White. As a commodity, his golden sheen has gleamed for decades: the man has barely put a foot wrong since the inception of The White Stripes. As the founder of the Detroit duo (and forefather of the Blues Rock revival), John Anthony Gillis has been responsible for some of the most urgent, inspiring and staggering albums of this generation- Elephant, White Blood Cells and Icky Thump are just a few examples. A modern-day Rock colossus, White has parlayed his talents into 'side projects', The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs- whilst not scaling the Stripes heights, he has at least shown he is incapable of mediocrity. White's debut solo album Blunderbuss arrived on 23rd April, 2012: a critical juncture and lukewarm period for the revered axeman. His work with The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs (as well as being received with muted acclaim) was in the past; many wondered if White had any creative juice left in him- a high-profile divorce from the English model-turned-actress Karen Elson did not help issues a jot. I am one of the most ardent and dedicated Jack White fans on the planet, so was suitably nervous when his debut disc dropped: I was not disappointed. Country-tinged love ballads nestled alongside blood-curdling Blues screamers: sexualised paens to masculinity juxtapose tender themes of redemption and self-respect- a myriad of emotional and sonic ground are covered. As well as stand-out cuts like Freedom at 21, Hip Eponymous (Poor Boy) and Weep Themselves to Sleep, there was a lot of tantalising ingredients thrown into the pot: a bubbling cauldron that proved White is amongst the greatest songwriters around. Near-universal critical acclaim must have come as sweet relief for White: the music was talking loud and large; ensuring that its author was in the press for all the right reasons- the confidence and finger-to-the-world attitude of the music helped in this transition... Fast-forward two years, and we arrive at the feet of White's sophomore L.P., Lazaretto.

Unlike Blunderbuss, there has not been a terrible amount of speculation and hoopla surrounding Lazaretto- critics sort of know what to expect and know that White has his own impeccably high personal standards to match and top. Fulminations and hot-bloodied confessions lurk in the soundtrack: the album has as much overt anger and screw-you attitude as it does reflection and demure chivalry. Whereas Blunderbuss was a testament and representation of Jack White The Solo Artist, Lazaretto comes across as Jack White The Angry Voice of Music: that is not to say that the album is negative; White has had a lot to deal with and is healthily exorcising his demons through his art- the striking results show how conducive inner-turmoil can be towards genuine soul-discovery and truthfulness. Critical feedback (thus far) has been positive and celebratory: many note that the new album is not quite as good as his debut- the words 'solid' and 'impressive' have been used as banner headline by-words. I shall dissect the album in due course;, yet I have been compelled to assess Lazaretto's title cut- off of the back of its official release and stylistic video. Shot in black-and-white, it is a riot of explosions, testicular swinging and sweat: White's guitar explodes; rubber burns; our hero mugs to camera- the Jonas & François-directed clip is an eye-watering, juttering, whip-lashing animal.

A teasing and strutting riff beckons Lazaretto in. Crunching and slinking, it tip-toes and stops: before White walks to the mic. With a free-form Hip-Hop/Rap delivery, our hero is pumped and primed: "My veins are blue and connected/And every single bone in my brain is electric." Disconcerting and vivid images are underpinned be a dancing guitar line (that- by White's standards- is muted). After a brief Spanish coda ("Yo trabajo duro/Como en madera y yeso/Como en madera y yeso")- where our frontman expounds his itinerant work ethic- his attentions turn towards the ecumenical. Training his eye to God (represented in female form), White offers pro forma personal insight: in spite of his effortless tire and scam-making, the almighty never helps him out "for free." Whether our hero is talking about personal romance (employing God as a metaphor) or being direct and to-the-point I am unsure.  Soon enough White's voice begins to rise: the anger grows and you can sense imminent implosion. With his most cryptic and intriguing protestation, White is inflamed: "When I say nothing, I say everything/Yeah when I say nothing, I say everything." The composition still bids and tempts: guitar strikes are slinky but not- as of this moment- combustable; percussive beats are punchy- more propulsive than domineering. White's delivery is breathless and striking: with barely a pause for breath, he scattershots the next verse- having been tossed in the lazaretto, he spends his days "Makin' models of people I used to know/Out of coffee and cotton." The slight whine and nasal quality (that White employs) adds venom and pugnaciousness to the lyrics- a sense of tempestuousness creeps in. Mixing personal discombobulation and upheaval ("And all of my illegitimate kids have begotten/Thrown down to the wolves, made feral for nothin'") with a desire to break from his shackles ("I'm trying to escape any way"), our frontman steps up a gear: the pace quickens and the sense of frantic desperation rises. Talking of time running out; offering his hand to a feminine deity, White spits with vermillion intent: his episodic trajectory is about to spill off a cliff. At the half-way marker, our hero unleashes his axe: an O.T.T. and hysterical riff bursts, stings and intoxicate (like a kick in the teeth)- White demonstrates why he is one of the finest finger-pickers of this generation. Having endured a lot of emotional outpouring- where soul-searching and petulance are mixed- the listener is afforded no anesthetization: instead an electric orgasm is unleashed- at once biblical and apocalyptic; the next swaying and louche. White brilliantly subverts expectations and tradition- there is certainly no quaint verse-chorus-verse structure here! The song's first half consists of syncopated and intertwined verses- with nary a moment for predictability or reflection. Its second half begins (and develops) around instrumental ideals: after the delirious riffing, White lets his guitar tip-toe and creep: like a pantomime villan, it progresses with cartoon malevolence. Breaking from the Hip-Hop parable, the vocal becomes less staccato: White punctuates and considers his words (yet imbues them with emotion and force). With a pulverizing percussive thunderstorm, White's mesmeric tableaux turns darker:: "They wanna blow down in prison/They're lighting fires with the cast of the masses." Hoedown and heel-clicking violins parabond with fuzzy and delirious guitar: the final showdown is epic, indeed. With a furious flurry, our tale is concluded- bones and ashes lie strewn on the floor.

Lazaretto is a slight abberation- given the context of the album- in the sense that it is an odd child: a crazed one-off that is amongst the most immediate and exhilarating songs White has produced- a psychotic irreducible polynominal. Our hero's guitar-playing chops are at their peak: ranging from elephantic to ratcheting; White runs a gamut of emotions and colours- a breathtaking display. Paranoia and self-flagellation mix with obscurantism and accusatory rage: the resultant cocktail is one that leaves a fascinating after-taste. It is White's vocal delivery that indivduates and elevates the track: the song's conjecture and half-truths are made compelling by frantic and wide-eyed delivery; kick-in-the-face spit demands your attention- the song's funky and catchy flow implores you to mobilise and move your feet. Rap, Hip-Hop, Blues and Garage Rock are all tossed into the fire: resulting in a gloriously captivating jam (by the end, White's wheels are definitely showing their camber).

Few prosaic moments make their way into the L.P. Loneliness and hollow hearts linger within Would You Fight for My Love? and Alone in My Home: the former casts blame on his sweetheart- you can practically hear White clicking his tongue as his love walks out of him. Libidinous and lascivious sexualisation runs rampant throughout Three Women: White boasts about his triple conquest and stunning prowess. Trust, religious doubts and what-have-you-done-to-me mandates lurk throughout. Temporary Ground looks at God and issues of abandonment; I Think I Found the Culprit sees White's nerves shredded: his finger-wagging tongue sheaves with accusatory paranoia. That Bat Black Licorice is Lazaretto's most gripping and memorable largess: anger and self-laceration are at the fore once more. Austerity and self-worth are investigated within Entitlement; pulchritudinous longing and beauty have their place in a smattering of tracks- there is enough diversity and mood range to appeal to everyone. The album cross-pollinates genres and themes effortlessly; there is no predictability here: White ensures that each track has its own emanciapted identity and voice.

Jack White has encountered more heartache, stress and upheaval than most people do in a lifetime- he faces (and overcomes) pitfalls with cartoon-like determination. Perhaps it is part of being a modern-day Rock icon: shit will invariably hit- and clog- the fan. The way White overcomes proclivity and repression is through his music: subjugation at its most inspiring. Whilst Lazaretto is not as freewheelin', loose and sparse (to say atmospheric) as Elephant-era White Stripes, it is in way a detraction: the Jack White solo incarnation is a different beast altogether- gone are the limitations and constraints of his alma mater. It will be fascinating to see what the future holds for him. As creator and commander-in-chief of Third Man Records, White will have his producer/scouting hands full: but what of future musical endeavours? It is hard to say whether we will see another album by The Dead Weather or The Raconteurs (most people's breaths are far from baited); one thing is for sure: there will be (at least) another Jack White solo album. I hope that when that L.P. does arrive (one would expect it to be between 2015-2016?), life is a lot fairer to our hero: fewer stresses and conflagrations; a happier and more prosperous love life- he deserves a break, let's face it! We have seen a lot of anger-inspired records from White (aside from his two solo albums, Get Behind Me Satan was bleak and self-recriminating): it can create some astounding moments of brilliance- as demonstrated across Lazaretto. Anger, separation and disenfranchisement limits creativity and musical flair as much as depression and writer's block: White's strongest moments arrive when he is love with music- free from the shadows of love and conflict. If White can keep his head down (and not spread himself too thin), the next L.P. could be a masterpiece: we all know just what the man can achieve when he is at his best. 

For those only aware of Jack White through The White Stripes (or those who have no knowledge of him at all), Lazaretto is as good a starting point as any. Its title cut is a fever dream of electricity: a song that punches you in the guts and seduces hard- all at the same time. It is not the strongest moment of the album- it is not far off- (but in my opinion) the quintessential statement of the former White Stripe: vivid imagery; frantic and hypnotic guitar weaves; raw emotion and kick-ass 'tude- laced within a bloody heart that never stops beating. Music offers enough tranquility, romance and stillness: everyone yearns to discover something primal, elementary and gripping. This year, music has proffered mutual indemnity, escapism and here-for-the-moment heroics: few have dared to gift something that grips your soul as well as your head. Lazaretto's twisting tongue, convulsing bones and psychotropic lust is the summation of an imperialistic young artist- with a lot of talking and playing left to do. Witness this compelling slice of punch-drunk love...

BEFORE a certain Ohio duo beat him to it.

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