March 20, 2018 Jack White – Boarding House Reach (Album Review)
Jack White, known greatly for his work in the two-piece ensemble The White Stripes, is to release his third solo album, Boarding House Reach, on Third Man Records on March 23rd, 2018. The American rock musician, known for his eclectic and unique artistry, also produced the album himself, and it is important to note this is his first solo album in nearly four years.
Honestly, Boarding House Reach does come off like an attempt to shake-up White’s reputation and praise with something far-out and crazy; yet it is the mark of a Rock artist experimenting and redefining his sound, a wild and provocatively-thoughtful ride. So just how does Boarding House Reach stack up?
Consisting of 13 tracks, “Connected by Love” crashes in, welcoming the classic American heartbreak feeling, complete with raw, soulful vocals and all. The beat is simple and evokes comparisons to Freddie Mercury and Queen, and it is a truly strong choice to open the album. Similarly, the second track, “Why Walk a Dog,” features a simple beat and a focus on bluesy, Rock-n-Roll vocals. Then, mixing sounds of classic American Rock with the psychedelic vibes of the ’70s, “Why Walk a Dog” is a trip in itself.
“Corporation” focuses on sounding like a rebellious Rock anthem. Conversely, “Abulia and Akrasia” is completely different, as it takes a historical context with dramatic, symphonic textures featuring violin, acoustic guitar, and piano with an underlying monologue weaving in and out. It is a short interlude that leads into the fifth song, “Hypermisophoniac,” which showcases more of White’s experimental nature with music. The groovy, fuzzy bass song is smooth and makes it hard to stay still as it plays out. “Ain’t nowhere to run when you’re robbing a bank,” repeats White as the track fades out. Strange and catchy is a perfect way to describe it.
Then “Ice Station Zebra,” though experimental like the previous track, has more focus on its Rap verses, and somehow upbeat, tinkling piano. Seventh track “Over and Over and Over” is highly-reminiscent of classic Jack White: it is guitar and drum heavy, eclectic and a bit odd; it is a really interesting track with a dissonant yet melodic balance and the right amount of Rock attitude.
“Hello, welcome to everything you’ve ever learned sponsored by” drones a pleasantly empty male voice, introducing “Everything You’ve Ever Learned.” Monologues about everything you have ever wanted to know and learn, with garage style instrumentation and drum tracks encompass the track. Messy and more wild than previous songs, it is short and segues into “Respect Commander,” which is a Zeppelin-esque spiral of guitars, beats, and singing.
Thereafter “Esmeralda Steals the Show” is another monologue-laden piece with gentle piano and guitar in the background, while “Get in the Mind Shaft” comes on with an echoing speech and then dirty, fuzzy, Funk Rock. Caught somewhere between Funk and Blues, it is a highly-addictive song that favors of a more auto-tuned sound in place of White’s own sore, raw vocals. “What’s Done is Done” is a complete switch up, oddly-placed as the album’s second to last track. Drenched in the sound of Country, a baleful and mournful White tells us all “What’s done is done,” as he walks to buy a damn gun. Last and lucky 13 is the gentle and strangely soothing “Humoresque.” Another bizarre but fitting genre flip, the song is melodic, sad, and sweet; feeling like White has stepped foot into a time machine, straight into a secret vault of Cat Stevens’ or Beatles’ tracks.
Overall, Boarding House Reach pays homage to the great creators of the past in its own offbeat way, while still remaining completely its own; there can be many comparisons made, but there is no mistaking the artistry and ingenuity as belonging to anyone but Jack White. Somehow this album manages to be in multiple genres, with each song as different as the one before without coming across as entirely schizophrenic. The album is properly-tempered with experimental edge and craftsmanship. That is why CrypticRock gives Boarding House Reach 4.5 out of 5 stars.