Jack White has always had a keen sense of history. It can largely be attributed to his massive success, as the guitarist and songwriter has staked out prime real estate among rock, country and bluegrass’ finest, soaking up the eras and aggressively placing them among his rich body of pop music.
Buried beneath White’s desire to revert to iconic rock and roll classicism, Blunderbuss (itself a reference to an antiquated gun) can’t handle its own weighty expectations. White claims this album couldn’t have been created until now because its work that best represents him as one person; if this is truly the case (and not just a catchy PR line); White has been misrepresenting himself for years.
Blunderbuss has its fair share of mark out moments. White’s guitar solos, particularly in the midst of 70s A.M. pop rocker “Missing Pieces,” and youthful march “Freedom at 21,” add a needed layer to catchy but tired melodies. Yet this jagged edge—the calling card by which White has turned himself into a rock god–is oddly absent throughout Blunderbuss to the detriment of White.
There is no faulting White for needing to stretch out his wings, but Blunderbuss pulls White in far too many directions. It never finds cohesive rhythm and when it does pick up steam, it releases it all before it can cause collateral damage. White defers to his softer side through much of the album, keeping the devil and his minions at bay by choosing ragtime and bluegrass over boisterous, cantankerous rock and roll. “Love Interruption” is an awkward acoustic jazz mash-up that has no direction (buoyed by the strange lyric, “I want love to/Murder my own mother”). “Weep Themselves to Sleep” hints at the minions of old White Stripes fans who will be crying at the water-downed AOR execution of a punch-less Western medley; the same is true for “On and On and On,” which lasts far too long at barely four minutes.
Paying tribute to his forefathers (and mothers) is a worthy expedition, but Blunderbuss is the first hint that White’s creative tap may be running dry. Perhaps it’s a case of White needing a second voice to fill in his own deficiencies (ignoring Meg White’s drumming deficiencies). Allowed free range to raise his singular voice Blunderbuss shoots more blanks than bullets.