Even from the first note on Jack White’s second solo release “Lazaretto,” he makes it crystal clear that he’s interested in working only with the best musicians he can find, and playing only what he wants to play.
A cover of an old blues standard by Blind Willie McTell called “Three Woman” starts the album with an instant injection of groove, and a pocket so deep you could drive your car into it.
In spite of the fact that White chose not to work with a consistent lineup while recording (almost 20 musicians can be heard throughout), any combination of players sounds like a match made in heaven. These guys and gals have the blues in their bones, and can make it sound like they’ve been playing together for years.
The second track is the eponymous “Lazaretto,” a ballsy first single, and the best track on the album. The song casually whips out a unison guitar and bass riff that would make John Paul Jones jealous, before dropping off the deep end into a crawling, artificially reanimated breakdown from which Dr. Frankenstein could probably learn a lesson or two.
But White’s signature hard rock is not the focus of “Lazaretto.” In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find what exactly the focus is.
In a recent interview with “Rolling Stone,” White even admitted, “it’s definitely not one sound. … I don’t pick my style and then write a song. I just write whatever comes out of me, and whatever style it is what it is, and it becomes something later.”
It’s admirable that White’s music is true to himself in an age where the majority of what’s heard on popular radio is practically computer-generated, but his indulgent songwriting renders the final product somewhat scattered when tracks like the trippy, experimental “High Ball Stepper” end up on the same disc as country crooners like “Entitlement.”
However, “Lazaretto” has something for everyone, and it’s definitely worth a listen.
Verdict: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
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