He’s claimed he’ll never reform The White Stripes unless he goes bankrupt. His garage blues project The Dead Weather stiffed and he was always an annoyingly shrill presence ruining Brendan Benson’s radio ravagers in The Raconteurs. So much rests on this debut solo album for those losing faith in the continued relevance of Jack White, and disappointment isn’t on the cards.
A seventh White Stripes album in all but name, it continues the widening of White’s sonic palate begun on 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan and 2007’s Icky Thump to take in string sections, strident piano, Hammond and – cripes! – actual bass, all played by White, instead of his usual throttled-weasel blues guitar solos, which make sparse appearances on Weep Themselves To Sleep and the (pretty awful actually) 50s rock’n’roll pastiche I’m Shakin’ in the gasping final stages of asphyxiation.
When he’s not slipping unchecked into boogie-woogie cliche (see also Trash Tongue Talker) or taking a stance on women’s rights last expressed in 1915 on Freedom At 21, White benefits from the expansion and autonomy: Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy trips along on a wonderfully breezy barn-dance vibe, On And On And On verges on – crivens! – trip-hop, Missing Pieces is a trademark surrealist blues, and Sixteen Saltines and Love Interruption are this year’s Hardest Button To Button and (downbeat) Hotel Yorba, respectively.
Not quite both barrels, but certainly a shot in White’s arm.