New Release (Third Man)
Based on the first three tracks—especially “Sixteen Saltines,” a Who homage complete with borrowed “I’m Free” riff — you’d think that Jack White has simply done the obvious on his solo debut, and made a new White Stripes album on his own. But for better or worse, the rest of the disc would prove you wrong; it’s more polished and melodic (and likely influenced by his new Nashville homebase) than anything the Stripes ever did. Pianos and acoustic guitars dominate the mix; there’s an actual waltz with mandolin, a few obvious echoes of Led Zeppelin III (the very Plant-like vocal on “Hypothetical Kiss”), even a borrowed Paul Simon lyric on “Guess I Should Go To Sleep.” (The track that doesn’t fit, — though it’s a great song — is a faithful cover of the Blasters’ “I’m Shakin’”). White likely has some resentment on his mind, since references to betrayal crop up in nearly every song — yet this feels less like a personal catharsis than a considered mainstream effort. So hold the usual talk about White as the last of the rock stars; this time he’s more of an accomplished craftsman.