I’m off to see Jack White play an outdoor concert tonight, so I revisited his last couple of outings, Blunderbuss (which is great) and Lazaretto (which is pretty good). But watch your media!
Blunderbuss · It’s loaded with terrific songs: I particularly like Love Interruption, I’m Shakin’, and I Guess I Should Go To Sleep. On top of which, a few of them are straight-ahead rockers, and any year which has one of those from Jack White in it can’t be all bad.
Lazaretto · The proportion of winners isn’t as high, except for there’s Temporary Ground, a totally beautiful sad little ballad, one of the best songs of the year by anyone. High Ball Stepper is a weird and likeable instrumental, and Just One Drink rocks out a bit, as does the title track. But go elsewhere for guitar anthems.
Maybe the best thing is the orchestrations, which are full of gaps and surprising instrumental voices. If you look closely at the liner notes (of course, you need to have bought the vinyl) the record is like Jack’s last-tour-but-one; the band on some tracks is all-women; men on the others. They sound different!
Media · I bought both of these on vinyl, which came with download-code inserts for a 320k MP3 version; my thoughts on bit-rates are here, and both sets of bits sound fine on my deranged-audiophile setup. Jack White is a good, thoughtful, producer and knows how to orchestrate.
The vinyl version of Blunderbuss is freaking awesome; the sound explodes out of the grooves and you get that only-with-vinyl “Damn, there’s a band at the end of the room” illusion. (Those who want to lecture me on the moronic hipster fail of liking LPs should please go read Why Vinyl?)
But the vinyl of Lazaretto is a turd. What happened was, Jack decided to have fun, so the disk has all sorts of weirdness and extras; one side plays backward, there are hidden tracks and a hologram and variant mixes; there’s a video in which Jack and a dude from his record company explain it all. I love Jack’s music, but what a pair of wankers. And my problem is that the album — at least the copy I got — sounds like dogshit; scratchy, no dynamic range, weak bass. Since it sold out instantly and is the best-selling LP since something back in the nineties, I wonder if the manufacturing plant got overstressed and let the standards slip? Anyhow, I’m listening to the digital version.
I’ll report back on the concert.