Jack White Lazaretto
  • WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11, 2014

  • Posted by: Jason Wien

If you've been keeping tabs on Jack White, you already know of his lust for innovation, his dowdy magnetism, and his renegade perception of what a song should sound like. You've most likely heard the theories and read up on all the bullshit that surrounds his image. You've witnessed his words as they were misplaced, misjudged and ripped out of context in every way possible. But on his most recent album, Lazaretto, White attempts to whitewash all of the nasty turbulence that he's suffered through in the past year in order to create an album that remains true to his original musical intentions to cut out all the bullshit and create a gut-punching, crotch-kicking, hard-rocking album. And he manages to do that pretty fucking flawlessly. Of course, this is not to say that Lazaretto is any sort of come back album, because it isn't. Lazaretto is the product of reiteration through refinement: It is a musician's last tired attempt to escape what he has already pointed out that he doesn't want to be a part of.

It comes of no surprise that White's sophomore solo record is titled Lazaretto. After all, the term, defined as an isolated hospital for individuals with infectious diseases, loosely sums up the path back to isolation that he is determined to take. He's tired of other people filling in the gaps of his half-heard comments, and he's tired of having to explain them. Sure we get it, his presence is hard to ignore — especially considering his newly discovered role as the "Willy Wonka of Music." But, as with many other celebrities these days, people focus in on his personal life too intensely. So much so that White acknowledged this and appropriately named the sophomore LP in order to describe the state he probably hopes to be in after the album's release — complete isolation. And considering all of the negativity surrounding him, it seems that an album focusing on the hope for some peace and quiet for Jack White could not have come at a better time.

As for the album itself, Lazaretto lacks in the innovation and allegorical imagery we've grown to expect when listening to anything with White's name stamped across it. As each track yanks its listeners back and forth between the distorted fuzz of a beaten down electric guitar and the complete rawness of his vocals, one can't help but view it as a mere extension of his previous solo effort, Blunderbuss. Of course, White has crafted this sound from a cookie cutter and has rightfully called it his own. He's carnivorously torn at all the polished edges and infused every stanza with the Jack White-isms we all know and love. He's even made subtle warnings to his fans regarding his sound in songs like "Entitlement", in which White coos "I'm sick of being told what to do," blatantly pointing out his depleted desire to satisfy his fans over himself.

Nonetheless, we ask: When the same vocal progressions and effects were present in all of White's previous work, was it necessary to release another 11-tracks of relatively similar sounding material? Maybe. Or maybe the hope for something completely new was too much to ask for from the irritated and rightfully fatigued musician. Maybe Lazaretto was made to shut the aching fans up. Maybe the strong focus he places on his label, his collaborative efforts, and the remodeling of how people listen to music has taken up too much of his time to allow him to establish a set of songs that work as a solo effort as much as they act as archaic additions to his already well established library.

With all of the personal expectancies of the album put aside, Lazaretto still manages to carousel from soft country tunes to explosive rock n roll in a brilliant juxtaposed mess. The songs still thump as heavily as predicted, the instrumentation, for lack of a better phrase, is fucking awesome, and White's melodies are still as contagious as they always are. Therefore, even if we do rip on White for his lack of innovation on Lazaretto, we can't help but acknowledge that the album rocks hard enough to keep you interested. Let's just hope audiences use their unbiased perspectives to reach the conclusion that White is finished with innovation in regards to his sound. Let it be known that Lazaretto is not an establishment of something new. It is simply a spit shine of something we've already seen.

Lazaretto is out now on Third Man Records. Watch the new video for the album's title track below.




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