At this point it may be the “cool” thing to do to hate on Jack White. This isn’t that, or at least it isn’t intended to be. His latest solo album just isn’t that interesting of a listen. It’s far from boring as far as music goes but it’s just a very difficult album to get on board with.
Jack White is extremely conscious of his own legacy and it seems like that is painted on everything he does. He is a legend already, an innovator and an amazing songwriter. The lead single “Connected By Love” is a typically strong first single from him, after that it gets sketchy. There is plenty of weirdness and electronic noises here like on “Hypermisophoniac” and “Why Walk The Dog?” but the songwriting is absent. What White has excelled at was writing great songs, here he focuses more on being strange and abstract. This has it’s value in music and it’s obvious that recycling old blues licks isn’t a sustainable career but too much weight is given to some Zappa-style weirdness. There are good songs here though so no fear, it just isn’t a great album through and through. The largely instrumental “Corporation” may be one of his best songs ever and “Ice Station Zebra” has a good groove cutting in and out and holds together as a good song.
Overall the record is random and hard to swallow all at once, there is a lot going on here. Only time will tell if White is simply ahead of the curb here but it just seems like this is White trying to be innovative and sacrificing his fantastic songwriting because of it.
Key Tracks: “Corporation” “Connected By Love”
It was certainly not the most accessible album of Jack’s. It took a few listens, and, really, it could take a few more before I’ve developed a real firm opinion on it. That said, I think it was very ambitious musically, and I’ve got to give some recognition to him for taking risks. He is at a point in his career where he could half ass a record, and get away with it. “Boarding House Reach” is certainly not that. Sometimes I find that when an artist goes out on a limb, that I don’t really know what I think until the follow up comes a year or two later. Then I have the perspective to assess it better. This is a pretty abrasive record, and I wouldn’t steer new fans toward it. The key tracks you mention are definitely the most accessible ones, but I could see this one narrowing his fan base more than building it. Jack White has the luxury of that being an option more than many artists.