REVIEW: Jack White – ‘Lazaretto’


Artist: Jack White
Album: Lazaretto
Genre: Alternative, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Blues
Label: Third Man / Columbia

The music scene can sometimes be seen as a relentless pissing contest that makes you loathe everything and everyone involved to the point of exhaustion. Whether it be personal drama, two bands beefing with each other, or some onslaught and backlash from fans because so-and-so sold out or made a crappy record, no one can escape it. Even Jack White.

Regardless of how you feel about his music, past and present, you are unable to deny the importance of him and his role in the scheme of what the music scene has dwindled down to. So all these unnecessary details about his divorce, relationship or lack thereof with Meg White, and any (justified) feud with The Black Keys have all been an attempt to shade his innovations and importance.

Fast forward to the present. We have been given Lazaretto. An almost prophetic, self-aware attempt to clean the slate and again place himself at the top of modern alternative music and say, “Hey, remember me?” Not that he’s necessarily been forgotten, but that he’s been slighted negatively and it’s time to get back to the music; what he does best. And boy, does he bring it.

Musically, this album reaches a new pinnacle for White as a composer. The songs that he has written are undoubtedly ones that no one else could write, so there’s some expectation that is fulfilled. The album’s closer, “Want and Able,” sounds like the older brother of “Cause and Effect” off Icky Thump and “Would You Fight For My Love?” could have easily come off Elephant.

But with expectation comes the need for surprise, almost an attempt of a ‘one-up.’ The lead single and title track is absolutely nuts, with starts and stops, and, excuse the cliche, a face-melting guitar solo that carries the signature White touch–and doesn’t stop and reaches higher and squeals and yells more than ever–besides maybe a live show. And the use of pianos and violins are heavy on this album, which also adds to his music buff. The violent violin solo on “The Black Bat Licorice” is just as intense as any guitar solo he’s done. In fact, he states “Now let me say the same thing on a violin!”

There is something memorable on every track. Whether it be the hook riff for “The Black Bat Licorice” or the chorus/bridge lines of “I Think I Found the Culprit,” or even the “lordy-lords” that run rampant over and over again on “Three Women.” It’s all incredibly infectious and will keep you interested and you’ll find yourself falling in love. The bluesy undertones which he is famous for continues all throughout the album, and it reminds one of what was so great about The White Stripes. His attention to minor details that allow the songs to blow up and become classics are what hooked people, and will continue to do so.

And again, lyrically the album continues in typical, yet exciting fashion, but seems to be prophetic of his situations in life. “Entitlement” is very straight-forward in content, possibly a self-aware song, one where he sees a fault of his and exposes it. “Just One Drink,” “Would You Fight For My Love?” and “Alone In My Home” all seem to touch on possible references to his demised marriage and come at it from different angles, as someone who is coming alive and talking about the potential different stages of moving on.

And with “Lazaretto,” which references the idea of being cast out into a group of undesirable people, and in this case, lepers, we can argue that he’s explaining his boredom with the scene he’s helped create. It would be hard to argue against that case, with his desires to secure world records and record classic artists in tiny boxes to press an analog record; his desire to stand out.

But this is also a man who until recently has secluded himself very well, almost hermit-like, and why would he all of a sudden wear his life and mind on his sleeve, giving us detailed thoughts about his life? Honestly, that’s the beauty of his music. Some of it is tongue-in-cheek, some of it is metaphorical, and some of it qualifies as “what the fuck is he saying?”

With that being said, Jack has mentioned with NPR what the lyrics in “Lazaretto” are about.

“This was a rhyme about the braggadocio of some hip-hop lyrics — the bragging about oneself in hip-hop music. The character who’s singing this song is bragging about himself, but he’s actually bragging about real things he’s actually accomplished and real things that he actually does, not imaginary things or things he would like to do. Because sometimes you see people who, they sing from the heart, but they haven’t done anything, you know? And their lives are not very interesting or whatever. So this character in this song actually has worked very hard in his life and he’s done some interesting things.”

So yeah…there’s that. I was close.

Be sure to pick up ‘Lazaretto’ on June 10 via Thirdman / Columbia.

SCORE: 9.5/10
Review written by Corey From – (@morfyeroc)

Corey From

Corey From, from Kansas City, MO, when not thinking about or listening to music, obsessively thinks about Royals baseball, a platter of ribs (or BBQ in general) and cold beer. Nothing special really.
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