Lazaretto is Jack White’s Finest Effort
After Jack White premiered the instrumental firecracker “High Ball Stepper” back in April, it was anticipated his sophomore solo record Lazaretto would be something of extraordinary measure. And that notion held true.
Lazaretto is a carnival of an album, carefully crafted together by the whimsical and eccentric madman that is at the epicenter of White’s persona, glorifying his radiating musical brilliance as both a practiced musician and highly versatile artist. White waves a wand and casts a spell over listeners with distorted guitar, twang and gritty rock ‘n’ roll, revisiting the early ‘00s days of the White Stripes in a form of garage rock-fused-blues that pulls at the very heartstrings of what it means to truly “kick an amp into overdrive.” Master volume, gain and bass at a high, treble and mid at an average—the opposite of clean sound, an unrestrained noise that has become a defining characteristic of White’s style.
The album’s first number “Three Women” hints at White’s prowess as a single man, while his first solo album Blunderbuss encompassed an emotional, freshly divorced aura scattered with hints of heartbreak. A rebuttal to Blunderbuss, “Three Women” croons, “I’ve got three women, red, blonde and brunette / I’ve got one in California and one back in Detroit.” White’s here to let his audience know, right away, that the broken shell of Blunderbuss has been left behind—and so has Meg White.
Next is the title track, which showcases White’s capacity to manipulate a guitar until the strings generate a shuddering noise as though driven to their very breaking point. Raw and overflowing with screaming riffs, “Lazaretto” also brings in an old-school fiddle that encompasses the sound of a Louisiana bayou—a unique twist that pairs surprisingly well with the reverberating guitar. That same sound is continued through “Temporary Ground,” but taken down multiple notches in a fashion similar to The White Stripes’ 2001 number “We’re Going To Be Friends” (plus added fiddle and haunting female vocals). Again, White harkens back to early White Stripes days, a reminder heard frequently throughout Lazaretto.
He continues to bring in added bonuses, with unexpected piano in “Would You Fight For My Love?” White is adapt at blending varying instruments and Lazaretto, above all other solo and band work, is the biggest proof of that talent. It’s one of his crucial traits as a standout musician and an essential quality of the new album, particularly in “High Ball Stepper,” which was critically acclaimed as an excellent choice for a first single (regardless of its solely instrumental nature).
“Just One Drink” follows and is worthy of bar-anthem status. It’s as though White took a classic Lucero track from Memphis, replaced it with his own vocals and turned up the distortion—the perfect drinking song of the record. But as all unruliness is best paralleled with passivity, White balances out the equation with “Alone In My Home” and “Entitlement”, two lighter tracks that (albeit briefly in Lazaretto) express his softer side. “I’m becoming a ghost, so nobody can know me,” sings White in the former.
White is an unpredictable oddity of rock ‘n’ roll, and he embodies said persona with “That Black Bat Licorice,” a fun number that boosts Lazaretto back into limbo stature. A quirky entertainer who keeps listeners on edge with persistently evolving sound throughout the album, he brings things down again for “I Think I Found The Culprit,” which has the heaviest lyrics of the record, and also for the closer “Want and Able”. White, just like Lazaretto, is full of surprises—one never knows what to expect.
After “High Ball Stepper,” expectations for the remainder of the album were set. White gave the world its first glimpse into Lazaretto and the bar was raised. However, all 11 tracks proved to fuse together in a skillfully designed compilation that captures and grips the listener at the very beginning and doesn’t let go until the final notes are over. Even then, it’s hard to shake off the trance. Lazaretto is White’s best and most diverse work yet.