BLUNDERBUSS Jack White (Columbia/ Third Man, 2012)
A SUBVERSIVE, mythical and brilliant being, notorious for whimsical gimmicks like releasing a single via balloons and working with Insane Clown Posse, Jack White is famously tough to pin down.
After severing ties with two of the most important women in his life — first from former bandmate and wife Meg and then Karen Elson, a model and singer whom he divorced last year — this album is understandably masochistic in nature, with lyrics that will spark debate and interpretation for some time to come.
He confronts the phantom limbs of amputated love and adjusts to loneliness, which becomes the underlying theme of the album. Opener Missing Pieces sets the tone, with a dizzying riff as bait, featuring White’s bewildered protagonist losing his mind, limb by limb till he’s reduced to nothing, cursing at how “When they tell you they just can’t live without you/ They ain’t lying, they’ll take pieces of you/ And they’ll stand above you/ And walk away,” over a slate of lush guitars.
He worked with a group of mostly female, Nashville-based musicians as his band for this album and the effects are profound, like Ruby Amanfu’s sultry, smoky co-vocals on the simmering and soulful organ-spiked Love Interruption, which sees White seemingly frustrated and fed-up, lamenting “I want love to grab my fingers gently/ Slam them in a doorway/ And put my face into the ground,” with painful yearn and yet concludes “I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupts me anymore.”
Brooke Waggoner works the piano in Weep Themselves To Sleep, an inquisitively thumping and slightly theatrical piece while Freedom at 21 comes close to a hip-hop-rock track with White viciously spitting out lines on top of a bluesy hook and drum jive.
The album has got slick guitar playing but no earth-shattering riffs, overall packed with some of Jack’s purest and best songwriting yet. Whether or not it will be touted his “divorce” album, the stories in Blunderbuss get more fascinating as you get closer, and if this is the side that White is happy to show the world right now, then I’m happy to savour it.
THE ONLY PLACE
(Mexican Summer, 2012)
FUZZY, lo-fi, reverb heavy songs with just enough sloppiness and messiness to keep things interesting basking in plenty of Californian sun and playfully forlorn lyrics is what Bethany Cosentino and her collaborator Bobb Bruno are best known for and what made their first full length Crazy For You stand out.
Garage rock has its charm and is relatable in its deceptively simple song structures and words and Best Coast is a band that fully understands how simplicity can be the most effective vehicle for conveying complex sentiments and continues that method for tapping into specific kinds of angst, mostly pining for boys and feeling sad about being alone, in The Only Place.
This time around, producer Jon Brion, who has worked with Kanye West and Fiona Apple, makes their sound glisten and it transforms their vibe completely, their fuzzy guitars have become pronounced twangs and Cosentino’s voice, once a booming echo, is now front and centre.
Dreaming My Life Away is a float of vibraphones and a sombre bass while No One Like You is a soft ballad with Cosentino surrendering to the fact that she’s “Been around this crazy world/ But I still want to be your girl” despite her lover hurling hurtful words. Misleadingly cheerful chords drive Do You Love Me Like Me Used To reminiscent of the 1960s surf spirit like the Beach Boys but indulges in existential woes, asking “When did my life stop being so fun?”
While The Only Place may come across as truthful and straightforward fun to some and whiny or self-indulgent to others, ultimately Best Coast is doing what it does best and that is deliver riveting, unfiltered drama in a rousing sunny pop package and that, is always an intriguing state of mind to visit.