Spring comes and a younger man's fancy turns to romance—or kvetching about it anyway. And not just any random branch of romance but the rock-star variety—that beautifully dark and twisted musical variation Betty Davis identified as the "anti-love song," back when she was rocking Miles Davis's world.

Since Jack Whiteis the young dude in question and not your reporter (who hasn't sought solace or catharsis from mantic music in more springs than he dare recall), we might expect these songs to be wildly expressionistic, abstract and wise in the art of joyous noise and industrial design. This much we can confirm to be true.

 

Blunderbuss is White's first official solo album, though the man is too much the control tweak for that not to be sonically true of every White Stripes album, and maybe even his collabs with The Raconteurs and Loretta Lynn.

 

Blunderbuss is White's first official solo album (you can stream the entire album for free on iTunes), though the man is too much the control tweak for that not to be sonically true of every White Stripes album, and maybe even his collabs with The Raconteurs and Loretta Lynn.

The word "Blunderbuss" comes to us from the history of Dutch weaponry. It derives from the word "donderbus," refers to a muzzle-loading firearm, and in translation comes out as something like "thunder box." The transition from donder to blunder is thought by some to be deliberate; the term blunder was originally synonymous with confusion, and this is thought to describe the stunningly loud report of the large-bore, short-barreled blunderbuss.

Dragons were carved into early versions of the weapon because the muzzle blast gave the impression of a fire-breathing dragon. The gun became popular with dragon/dragoon legions whose job was to subjugate or persecute Protestants; and "to compel by any violent measures or threats." So let's assume White wants us to associate his album of anti-love songs with fire-breathing dragons and a thunderbox of confusion, assault and repression.

This easily suggests a caterwauling and cacophonous palette will be in deploy. But Blunderbuss's Crayola box is actually more '70s Paul McCartney in affection than My Bloody Valentine—and a McCartney album produced by Allen Toussaint at that.

The dominant instrumental voice on the thing here is acoustic and electric piano—played with adept aplomb by White and the loverly Ms Brooke Waggoner, both of whom don't mind conjuring up echoes of Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elton John, Leon Russell and Freddy Mercury. (FYI The rest of the band listed on the sleeve is very pro-femme).

 

An unexpected mix of upbeat melodies, barrel-house pianistics, and White's sarcastic but dour lyrics mark Blunderbuss as a peculiar, novel and abundantly tuneful event.

 

All the songs display a flair for the theatrical that is less arena-rock than musical theater in that Gilbert and Sullivan operettas kind of way, and hence a McCartney-ish way as well. The keyboards give the album as unified a sound as drums, guitar and voice did The Stripes. An unexpected mix of upbeat melodies, barrel-house pianistics, and White's sarcastic but dour lyrics mark Blunderbuss as a peculiar, novel and abundantly tuneful event.

Since White turns out to be as fetching and dramatic a rock pianist as plectrumist, this kinder, genteel Blunderbuss experiment of his comes with ivory-tickling legs, balls and teeth. A romp and a hoot throughout, this is the sound of one man and his fire-breathing blunderbuss clapping over a new band with a very professional female rhythm section in no need of being rationalized as performance art conceit.

Besides being an ear-tingling occasion for various levels of payback, getback and comeback, Blunderbuss also seems bent on guaranteeing White lose a few friends—not exclusively meaning ones who liked him better when he was stage-wedded to his ex-drummer/wife, Meg.

Written by Greg Tate 

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Tags: jack-white, album-previews
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