Once in a while, everyone is forced to eat their words like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with or without bananas depending on what your mother made you as a child. This is the part of the column where I eat mine (without bananas). When The White Stripes debuted in 1999, I was not on board. The reason can be described in two words: Meg White. In my defense, I was 13 and didn’t have a fully functioning brain, but nevertheless, the band went on to fame and fortune and rightfully so, while I grew up and learned a thing or two about music. It should not be news to anyone that the Stripes split early last year, and that Jack White’s solo debut will be released next week. What may be news is that the entire album is currently streaming on iTunes and I am here to report that Jack White has now officially reached the point in his career where he can absolutely do no wrong.
If you haven’t streamed or illegally downloaded “Blunderbuss,” get on top of it. The heavy rock and the sharp, ear piercing guitars you undoubtedly expect are there, but not in the quantity you might expect. Of course, when they’re there, they’re satisfying to say the least, but when they’re absent, you won’t miss them one bit. On “Blunderbuss,” we get a unique blend of the many sides to Jack White. It’s got the heavy, the melancholy, the blues, the country, and even some soulful rockabilly. Needless to say, it’s a great album, but this album is not the sole reason for my claim of near perfection. This is Jack White standing on a mountain of work that he created himself. The real proof lies in his past projects. Everything this man touches turns to gold.
What initially turned me off about the White Stripes was, as previously stated, the drummer. The clumsy, cavewoman-like beating of the toms simply lacked backbone. However, what I wrote off as amateur, White saw as purity. I eventually came around, but I was wooed in by a different Jack White project. Enter The Raconteurs. Joined by Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence, and Patrick Keeler, White took pieces from existing bands and put them together to form and front a loud and diverse rock 'n' roll super group. To further extend his reach, White went on to form The Dead Weather, a group for which he didn’t even need to sing (he played drums) to succeed. Helped by Alison Mosshart’s (The Kills) screeching vocals, the band took it up a notch, making noisy, rib-shaking blues not heard since the late '70s.
White’s commitment to quality music, supported by his independent record label, Third Man Records, is what makes him one of the strongest torchbearers for current Rock. If musical entrepreneurialism is a thing, Jack White is the picture of it. The man goes from band to band, infusing them with his own unique excellence, then leaving at the top of their game (although most of the bands are technically still together). His track record is pristine. This man earned the right to sound as good as he does.
There’s a scene in the movie “It Might Get Loud,” a guitar driven rock 'n' roll documentary, in which Jimmy Page stands over a sitting Jack White and The Edge (U2) and busts out a few earth shatteringly heavy notes on his equally weighty Les Paul. Awestruck, it’s not hard to read the “I can’t believe I’m in a room with Jimmy Page” looks on their faces. Although any musician would be humbled by the request to be in the presence of rock royalty, Jack White clearly stands out as the more worthy of the duo. During the film he gives advice to a young child, who is oddly dressed like a younger version of the Detroit rocker. "Pick a fight with it," he says in an effort to teach the child to play, before professing his love for more unwieldy guitars. In the same film, he makes a guitar out of a piece of string, a woodblock, and a pickup and it sounds like a fucking thunderstorm.
In order to be eligible for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 25 years must pass between an artist’s first work and their induction. It’s too early for Jack right now, but between the quality of work, bands he’s inspired, and what I hope will be a long solo career, I’m banking on Jack White’s name to appear over and over. There’s nothing quite like watching a someone build their own legend, and with his latest release, Jack White does just that. And it’s a big one.