Boarding House Reach – Jack White

By Richard Coulter

Jack White is known primarily for his work as being one half of the White Stripes. Since the
band’s split 7 years ago, he has been working as a solo artist. Up until this year he had only
released two albums Blunderbuss and Lazaretto , both of which have their high points, but pale
in comparison to the White Stripes’ work. His newest album, Boarding House Reach, which
dropped at the end of last month is a different story.
His first two albums were very reminiscent of the White Stripes in sound, but didn’t quite match
the quality. This new release is a stark contrast to most everything he has done prior. Initially, I
had very mixed feelings and wasn’t sure whether I liked it or hated it. White has a very new
experimental sound which likely will alienate many fans. That said, this doesn’t decrease the
quality of the album in any way. It is very accessible experimentation compared to some of the
truly avant-garde music you can find elsewhere in jazz and classical.
There is an electronic feel to the listening experience, something that he has explored in the
past, but really, REALLY emphasized in Boarding House Reach. In one of the singles released
prior, “Over and Over and Over,” the guitars have a super buzzy tone that feel like you are
listening to the rock n’ roll of musical tesla coils. But not all songs are so energetic. For example,
the closing track, “Humoresque,” brings everything down as the album finishes. It is a really soft,
sort of piano-jazz piece, that ends the album perfectly.
Another unique aspect to the album is the background vocals on tracks like “Over and Over and
Over” and “Connected by Love.” Although background vocals have helped to create
masterpieces in the past (Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter comes to mind), the vocalists here
create a heavenly quality that I can’t really describe any way other than angelic.
In “Over and Over and Over,” they contrast the song, but suit it so well at the same time. The
vocalists really add something to the songs. Had they not been there, they would have felt really
hollow.
With these qualities, the beautiful piano work, elements of funk and electronica, the use of tribal
percussion, synthesizers, and other unique instruments, as well as the paradoxically sane
madness of White vocals and lyrics, it is, as I’ve said repeatedly, a very new and different
album. It has such explosive highs and such powerfully somber lows. The album as a whole
feels like what the next evolution of rock could be.
Overall, Jack White is back to impressing me with his talent at least. If you are a fan of any of
White’s prior work, rock music, or just some weird stuff in general, I definitely recommend
Boarding House Reach . You might need to listen through it a couple times and sit on it a while,
but hopefully you’ll come around like did.

– Richard Coulter

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