Gearing up for his next world tour, the consistently impressive if controversial Jack White has unfurled another napalm inferno with “Lazaretto.”
This title track catapults Lazaretto (Third Man Records, 2014) to higher heights than 2012’s Blunderbuss. As does Jack White’s participation in the industry’s push to bring back traditional LP production: the “Ultra” LP version of Lazaretto features a whole assortment of technical treats, including holograms and hidden tracks.
“Lazaretto” opens on a thick bass line dripping with distortion, mirroring the introduction and framing White’s vocals is a sharp guitar riff in the chorus. Frightening and dissonant synthesizer further enhance the track, highlighting the maniacal appearance and demeanor White often uses as a mask for his musical genius.
With a sampling of Spanish in its introduction and later lines like “even god herself has fewer plans than me / But she never helps me out with my scams for free” and “when I say nothing, I say everything,” White makes clear his own confidence in his artistic maturity and undeniable success; this musical swagger calls his critics to the stand and puts the entire industry under the gun.
Throughout his career, Jack White has simultaneously retained and refined the uncultured feel of his older work, where true musical merit lies in his ability to tame discordance and produce substance from strife. Screaming guitar solos, hectic progressions, and shifts in tempo galore, “Lazaretto” demonstrates his mastery of emotional expression – even without its words. The imposition of a haunting violin melody in the outro alludes to folk-blues roots and adds welcome semi-acoustic flavors to a high-voltage electric piece.
“Lazaretto”‘s black-and-white video features White in a skull-print suit, cut into frames of shattering glass, bucking bulls, spinning sports cars, and members of his band. One particularly stunning image of a dark-lipped man with the album cover tattooed on his chest elicits a frenzied feeling in the viewer and draws on the semi-divine powers with which White is often accredited.
The balls-out, no-brakes nature of “Lazaretto” confirms that White has no desire to abdicate his throne anytime soon. In fact, he seems to be sitting quite comfortably and shows no premonition or self-doubt. Shock factor delivered, it has become increasingly difficult to expect anything less than revolutionary from White. As he continues his crusade to bring the blues back into the mainstream, White’s visionary flag casts a long shadow over contemporary rock and roll. He’s one of the biggest names in the game and he’s not about to fade.