Thursday, March 22, 2018

Review: Jack White 'Boarding House Reach' LP

This friday, March 23rd, Jack White's 3rd solo album, Boarding House Reach, will be released following several singles including Connected By Love, Corporation, Over and Over and Over, and Respect Commander, constituting 1/3 of the album already being released.
Mr. White is no novice to theatrics and the PR circus, delivering to the world such album stunts as the liquid record, the 3rpm record, and the tri-color 7", which was used for the one sided 7" single "Over And Over And Over" (side B having a screened Third Man image).

One could argue that White for a time lost sight of the ultimate goal of records (delivering sound) and aided in the swift rise in album prices and unavailability for smaller labels and bands to press albums at affordable prices in a timely fashion. But White, in a not-so-like-himself low key fashion, turned away from the monopoly of United Record Pressing, and the absolute destructive nature of Record Store Day, and quietly opened his Detroit store on Record Store Day 2015, without ever using the RSD wording in press releases, and announced the opening of his record pressing plant as a way to offset the monopoly created by larger pressing plants effectively edging out Independent labels and bands.

Personally this action got me back into the White camp; after all but writing him off after his wacky stunt records turned an effective medium into a commodity that drove record prices sky high seemingly overnight. But it's been nearly 2 decades since Jack and Meg injected fresh blood into the music world and possibly saving rock n' roll with their take on Detroit House-Rockin' blues, and over a decade since he moved to Nashville and effectively saved country music with his own take on the genre while also relaunching the careers of Country greats Loretta Lynn, and Wanda Jackson.

When White decided to kick off the motor oil sludged work boots for the rhinestone encrusted cowboy boots of Nashville we obliged and now we all have Wanda Jackson and Sturgill Simpson LPs mixed in with our Dirtbombs and Detroit Cobras 7"s.

In his latest rebirth White is trying his hand at Memphis Soul, on the heals of a soul resurgence including Curtis Harding, Charles Bradley, the late Sharon Jones and others. The difference this time is that instead of spearheading a revival like a traveling preacher (selling such snake oil treats as Detroit Blues or Nashville Country) he is joining the congregation of converts, and it shows.

For the writing process of Boarding House Reach, White hunkered down in a small apartment in Nashville; but with all the soul infusion, and lyrics about living rough, he would have done much better to have held up in a Memphis Boarding House and soaked in the world he was emulating  instead of  trying to connivence us that the rhinestone prince of Nashville could really understand the table etiquette of a Memphis boarding house.

The newest single, Over and Over and Over, starts like a classic White Stripes track fuzzed out guitar accompanied by only drums but quickly is injected (and not organically) by a southern gospel style chorus chanting 'Over and Over and Over' with sprinklings of "ooohs" and "woahs" as almost a quick reproducing of an early Stripes tune to fit the Memphis Soul goldrush.
Most of the album in fact is built along the bones of the great white Elephant but instead of meaningful lyrics and thought out choruses, is instead spackled together with theremin howls and pocket calculator bleeps, along with Curtis Mayfield style Hammond and congas creating a disjointed album poising as Childish Gambino but still wearing the fringed western wear.

Which isn't to say the album doesn't put in it's house rockin' time as well, and will find it's way easily to the dance floor for late night shoeless bridesmaids get-downs at wedding receptions,  but for classic White earnestness in whatever genre he has lassoed, this isn't the one. But we adored him in his Red and White phase, and loyally followed him south to his Black and Blue phase, hopefully we can hang in enough to see what he has in store next; For a man who seems enamored with the number 3, there surely is the next great phase right around the corner.

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