How is Jack White able to express a range of emotions in the first 10-seconds of a song’s introduction, but somehow I can’t find the perfect sentence to explain how important he is to modern music? Obviously, White is magical, because he possesses the ability to enchant instead of enforce. The listener can not help but be swayed, and with White’s sophomore album, Lazaretto, the listener is entirely seduced.
Initially, however, I did wrestle with the flow of Lazaretto, but latched on to a few gems. The best one is “Alone in my Home”, which attracted me solely on its rhythm. That detail is personally unusual, but I can’t ignore the piano that sounds suspiciously like a country harpsichord, light bass, or hollow guitar sounds. Together, these elements have an airy tone, while they dip, increase, and slow in unison. The melody just has an innocence of simplicity – the lyrics, however, are pretty damn sad, with most revolving around the idea of, “I’m becoming a ghost/becoming a ghost/so nobody can know me.” This musical description of isolation is eerie.
“That Black Bat Licorice” includes an intense execution of the lyrical content, displayed in a way that’s adventurous to attempt. The beginning is easy enough, there’s a couple lines of, “behave yourself” as the music builds. However, when White’s vocals come in, it’s almost like a rap, or speed singing, because the words whip past in such a ferocious fashion. White has something to say and he’s not waiting for anyone to catch up. The music is also enticing, which includes a full band sound that follows White’s voice perfectly. The melody is a little harder and rough, but packs a punch.
Lazaretto is a work of art and there is more to celebrate. “Temporary Ground”, has a violin introduction that opens into a slower, country ode melody that plays off the stronger elements. The violin reappears and dominates, while a blues guitar softly plays, but then there’s also a separate section for a miniature piano solo. “Temporary Ground” has a lot going on, musically, but never collides. The lyrics form to display this idea of constant motion without meaning and the loss formed with nomadic behaviors. The chorus is beautiful and shared between White and vocalist, Ruby Amanfu, singing “moving without motion/screaming without sound/across an open ocean/flying there on temporary ground.”
“Just One Drink” has a more rock and country feel, with an introduction of straight guitar and vocals. Both quickly lead to the chorus, which includes a constant melody of noise, because the instruments come together in a way that it’s hard to separate. The lyrics are also entertaining with comparisons like, “you drink water, I drink gasoline” and “one of us is happy, one of us is mean,” and the ultimate questions, “I love you honey, why don’t you love me?”
“Want and Able,” the closing track of Lazaretto, impressed me with the lyrics, because the music is almost a second thought. The melody is pretty, with a simple piano chord progression and makes the ending of this album less complicated. The content is more impressive, with a basic description of desire and means. Want and able are personified for White to tell a story. Lyrics like, “well want and able were crossing the road/want had a feeling there was something he was owed/but able broke it to him that there’s a social code” and “want said that didn’t feel so good/to never be fulfilled, forever stressed out and impatient” makes the song sound like a bedtime story that includes a hard life lesson. These types of songs takes on a new persona when the listener gets lost in the story.
I should have never doubted Lazaretto. White has continuously proven his validation and talent, with this sophomore album as another example. His personality comes through, with the content and experiments throughout the album, and I can’t think of a better form of expression than the chances White takes with his craft. Lazaretto isn’t just the follow up to White’s Blunderbuss – Lazaretto is a fucking force that includes its very own strength, while White remains a musical triumph.