Jack White’s second solo album is a hell of a lot better than his debut solo record. But that is not really any sort of compliment. Lazaretto is instantly, easily, more together-sounding than Blunderbuss – but it’s still a bit of a giant mess.
The opener, Three Women, will be described elsewhere as being funky and full of strut but it sounds like something Lenny Kravitz coughed up and decided to flush rather than record; it sounds like Jack White is happy to be the Willy Moon of Led Zeppelin impersonators.
The title track features the first of several “unhinged” guitar solos – you should say that in air-quotes because there’s no way these solos are actually unhinged, they’re just sloppy and kinda silly-sounding. They pass for wild and crazy because for most White Stripes fans the Hendrix of their day is a guy called Tom Morello. Long before he made earnest political folk-fuck music and ruined old Bruce Springsteen songs he used to graffiti guitar solos over slogans-masquerading-as-songs by a band called Rage Against The Machine. Jack White’s solos have some of the sound of Morello’s but he spray-paints his solos into place with the help of a sewing machine. Well, it sounds like that anyway.
Temporary Ground is far more appealing, it manages to trace around the work White did for Loretta Lynn (one of his very best offerings) by virtue of the fact that fiddler/vocalist Lillie Mae Rische sounds a hell of a lot like Emmylou Harris. There’s also a slight touch – it’s in the piano-playing (I kinda like White’s piano playing; I like it a lot more than most of his guitar work) – of Get Behind Me Satan; the most interesting(-sounding) of all the White Stripes albums.
But then we head to boredom via Would You Fight For My Love. It’s here and right across the centre of the album, on the sickly-crunch of High Ball Stepper; the I-once-sang-Loving-Cup-on-stage-with-The-Stones’ of Just One Drink; the I’ve-been-thinking-about-that-song-I’ve-Been-Thinking-About-My-Doorbell-ism of Alone In My Home, where you remember that all White has to work with, when you stomp on the thin, pimply neck of his surrounding hype, is a horribly, reedy voice, a penchant for hookless/rootless riff-that’ll-sell-it jingles that jangle their spurs in the vague direction of songs and a gimmick where he sells himself as the funeral director/scarecrow-figure who ran off and was allowed to tinker with mild eccentricity in the garden-shed at the bottom of the adjoining property to Tom Waits’ place; he’s running servants’ quarters at best and here he halves his worth by proving that the really horrible new Black Keys album isn’t actually the worst thing – puffed full of hype – you could hear from Candy-Coloured Alternative-Land this year.
That Black Bad Licorice has the ugliest nearly-reggae-rhythm/chuck-a-bit-o’-fiddle-on-there-to-baffle-‘em combo since Ringo’s Don’t Pass Me By (cf. White Album). It’s just fucking bad. And it’s also possibly racist. And though I’m not condoning it, that in itself doesn’t instantly make it a bad song, rather the album existing is bad enough but “that black bad licorice/I never liked it/I never will” does sound a bit Playstation-tan white. The guitars sound like they’ve been influenced more by Playstation than Jimmy Page too. (Once again).
I Think I Found The Culprit is one of the better Black Keys songs of recent years. That oughta fuck off The Black Keys, Jack White and fans of both/either. It also sounds a lot like any half-pie decent/ish White Stripes song. So, you know, not great, but hanging in there. The country-ish twist to this album – which will be written up by the clueless as bona fide – is actually a nice touch. It’s just not pleasant or original, or authentic – but it’s more pleasing than any of the other directions Jack’s music might have headed.
The closer, Want And Able, is a strange torch-ballad-y thing, probably thinks it’s Neil Young at a tack piano but it’s actually just any old White Stripes offcut, once again, one of the almost more-interesting ones, sure. Or totally fucking shit. But either way still a thin shard of a song at best.
I enjoyed this album a lot more than Blunderbuss. But let me spell that out for anyone confused by the fact that I have used the word ‘enjoyed’ when clearly I don’t really like this album: I enjoyed hearing Lazaretto more than Blunderbuss in much the same way that I enjoyed picking up shit with my bare hands more than I would have done if I’d had to then eat it.
Er, thanks for the nibble here, Jack.
Lazaretto is a dud. But it hangs together better than that other shit everyone lapped up.