Jack White has finally lost the plot – and he sounds totally brilliant. On his third solo album he’s at last shaken off the bluesy shackles of the White Stripes and has created something wild, mysterious and unlike anything else around. Bravo, Jack. ‘Boarding House Reach’ is a wilfully weird patchwork of New Orleans jazz, rabble-rousing testifying gospel, squelchy chip-tune funk, gameshow jingles, early Bronx hip-hop and the occasional sound of a microwave malfunctioning. Think Tom Waits meets the Beastie Boys and you’re kind of getting there.
In true Jack White fashion, the album was written in isolationist conditions, with White cutting himself off from the world and bringing in just a 4-track recorder and a dodgy old mixer for company. That he’s produced such a full, lush sounding thing packed with personality and life is impressive – but not surprising.
‘Hypermisophoniac’ – which means extreme hatred of sound – is a glitchy, artfully messy collection of noises strung together by White’s occasional insistent call to start “robbing a bank”, like Dr John had he been signed to the Hyperdub label. The clattering ragtime of ‘Ice Station Zebra’ sees White actually rapping before going full prime Stevie Wonder funk on us. ‘Over and Over and Over’ flips the script once more, a heavy garage rocker that owes as much to The Osmonds’ ‘Crazy Horses’ as it does Black Sabbath. ‘Get In The Mind Shaft’ is like something from an 1980s sci-fi film, with heavily processed vocals and skittering synths buzzing away, bringing to mind that GIF of Ross from Friends playing the keyboards.
Those wanting a taste of the old Jack won’t be left wanting either. ‘What’s Done Is Done’ brings his way with a bluegrassy ballad bang up to date while opener ‘Connected By Love’ balances his fondness for experimentalism with a powerful melody and universal message. The old Jack is still there, certainly, but we’re far more excited about what the new one has up his sleeves.