It often becomes a talking point with friends in the pub or over a coffee, and it’s an interesting and valid point, but in 2014 and in this age we live in generally, there are only a handful of future icons, legends in the music world and names that will withstand the test of time like we’ve seen happen in the past. If you look back to the sixties, so many names emanated from that time, such as the Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, The Kinks, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix and so on and so forth and these are all figures that are household names that everybody knows, whether a music fan or not. Everybody has heard of these people and is familiar with their work to a certain degree. So when discussing the people who are active in today’s music world, and trying to figure out who may achieve similar status, and in the next fifty years will be celebrated and revered in the same way as their predecessors, it’s actually quite a task, and realistically there aren’t that many people who you can think of. Of course, opinions will differ and somebody may throw a name in that you disagree with entirely. For me, there’s one person at the top of this list, and already to this day I consider being a genius, and a legend in his own right, even without that level of hindsight required to make the decision. Jack White, in all of his many guises, has always created substantial and legitimate music, since the beginnings of The White Stripes, with The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs and even on his own under his new solo outfit.
So whenever Mr White returns with new material, through any of his many mediums, it’s an exciting time, and expectations are always high. So when he released his latest, and second solo LP ‘Lazaretto’, as a big fan I dived straight in to ensure the standard was being kept as high as usual, and I also held hopes that it would either transcend or equal the quality of his previous album ‘Blunderbuss’, which introduced us to a plethora of instant classics like ‘Love Interruption’, ‘Sixteen Saltines’, Freedom at 21’ and even the incredible cover of the Rudy Toombs track ‘I’m Shakin’. Immediately, the first single and title track ‘Lazaretto’ has a bouncy but distorted riff that immediately grabs your attention and stands out as a strong track, and definitely a wise choice for release. His vocals flow like water and the lyrics are the work of a genius as has always been the case before. The song is obscurely laid out with an odd break down in the middle, before building up again, but not too eccentric and it’s already proved itself as an indie night success, when I played it at the October Transmission event. The second release from the album is the electrifying ‘Would You Fight For My Love?’, with its haunting vocal accompaniment, driving guitar riffs and well placed piano it stands as another big tune and another well thought out single release, and on a personal level one of my early favourites from the album. It’s over the top, layered musically, and the chorus is yelled as a blunt and direct question and in its grandness can be compared to the James Bond soundtrack single he released with Alicia Keys before, and maybe even ‘Seven Nation Army’ although I’m not going to be as delusional as to say it’s going to be anywhere near as big as that, considering the fact ‘Seven Nation Army’ can probably be considered as one of our generations most important and recognisable songs.
With an accomplished backing band providing an unbelievable sound throughout the album, a variety of different instruments can be picked up all the way through, from the Hammond organ to the violin and everything in between, it’s a music fans dream of a record. Also knowing from his previous work and a well documented background and inspirations, it’s an album full of substance and although his sound has always been very blues influenced, centring around his love of artists like Son House and Robert Johnson, he manages to remain contemporary and relevant, which has top be one of the biggest reasons Jack White, in any of his many forms is still a huge draw, and a favourite for many music fans. Other tracks include ‘Temporary ground’, an Americana style duet, smothered in raw violin that by track order follows ‘Lazaretto’ and changes the tone entirely. ‘High Ball Stepper’ is an instrumental, lasting almost four minutes, and although rather long for a song that doesn’t feature any vocals, it’s an interesting piece of work, with a shrill violin part, dirty, gritty guitar riffs and bumbling honky-tonk style piano, it works as a feature on the album, and doesn’t fall into just a piece of filler, like many instrumentals can normally do. ‘Just One Drink’ is a very shamelessly blues inspired ode to unrequited love, similar to some of the tracks we’ve heard before on some of the mid-run White Stripes material. ‘That Black Bat Liquorice’ also features some of my favourite lead guitar on the album, very technical and fast paced, but used correctly as it is, makes for a catchy song. Definitely potential for single release number three on this one.
So essentially what I’m saying is, in the absolute most biased way possible due to being a bit of an obsessed fan boy at the minute is that his second solo album is a winner, and I recommend it to any fan of good rock n roll, blues and Americana, but also that Jack White has once again cemented himself as a legend of our time, and a name that has the longevity to still be mentioned in a positive sense years after he’s done playing, which I still hope won’t be for a long time. He’s playing in Leeds next week and I’ve already got my ticket, and a few members of the Mojo20 collective are way too excited to be seeing him, as where I never did get to see The Ramones or Johnny Cash play live, and have never found the opportunity to see the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan in what must be their final years touring, I will be seeing an artist that in forty or fifty years, people will speak of in the same vein as those other icons. Well, I’ll be talking about him anyway…
Words by Stuart Green (@mojo20_music)