- 27 Jul 22
I've always liked the idea of Jack White – ‘the blues’, vinyl, etc – but his recorded work is patchy. Yes, ‘Seven Nation Army’ is a great riff, and there’s a proper belt off half of Icky Thump. ‘Three Women’ and ‘I’m Shakin’ are good too - he's always handy with a cover version, check his 'duet' 'Power Of My Love from the recent Elvis movie and seek out his run at U2's 'Love Is Blindness' - as is his 007 clash with Alicia Keys, but when all that squelching and the 'enthusiastic' stomping on his DigiTech Whammy take over, it gets a bit much.
I'm wildly paraphrasing here, but there's a scene in the guitar documentary It Might Get Loud where White explained how he likes an instrument that makes things difficult for him, one he has to fight. The Edge, who has always seemed like a sensible fellow, quite rightly looked back at him as if he were talking out of the decidedly nonsense end of his hat. The noise and 'the struggle' made April’s frenetic Fear Of The Dawn particularly hard to connect with, and Q-Tip in the middle of ‘Hi-De-Ho’ just didn’t work, although it probably seemed a fine idea on paper
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not – at least I hope I’m not – one of those chin-stroking bores calling out for “real Instruments”. Just a few decent songs would do the trick. Thankfully, there’s an earthy, wooden sound to Entering Heaven Alive, and when the pedals do come out, White gets a groove going. ‘I’ve Got You Surrounded (With My Love)’ sounds like he’s been listening to Prince. There are other half-decent tunes too, or perhaps it’s just that we can hear them this time around.
‘Love Is Selfish’ is built around the kind of acoustic riff that Jimmy Page used to bring back from Wales, there’s memorable piano and high bass interplay behind ‘A Tree On Fire From Within’, the opening of ‘If I Die Tomorrow’ sounds like he’s having another go at writing a Bond theme with the pedals again being put to good use in the song’s break, and ‘All Along The Way’ morphs from acoustic picking into something that might have at least heard a reggae record.
I’m not convinced there’s one killer song – although ‘A Tip From You To Me’ comes close – that’ll have the Ivor Novello judges roaring and shouting but at least, as when he strips down ‘Taking Me Back’ from Fear Of The Dawn and rebuilds it with a Grappelli-like fiddle, he’s letting a bit of air in, which has made for a better record.