By: The Busted Amp Staff
Joseph: When was the last time we did one of these? While quick reviews are a great and easy way to listen to a whole bunch of albums in a short amount of time, Jack White is a man that deserves far more than a short review. The former leader of one of the best rock bands of the 2000s, The White Stripes, Jack White has had a prolific career during and since on the side consisting of two other bands, (The Raconteurs, who have had their fair share of success over the years, and The Dead Weather) and his own solo work. He has also put him self in front of the vinyl renaissance with his studio, Third Man Records, and has been referred to as the Willy Wonka of Music. So, in some ways, it makes a lot of sense that his third solo LP, Boarding House Reach, would be a weird, inconsistent, frustrating, and groovy album that has been on repeat (for better or worse) for me over the last few weeks. So, without further ado, let's talk about the latest from the music industry's Willy Wonka.
The album gets off to an explosive start with lead single "Connected By Love." The track is everything I could ever ask for from Jack White: weird, groovy, and memorable. The song features an incredible breakdown with the keys (a tribute to his former keyboardist, the late, great Ickey Owens I suspect) and Jack White's signature guitar. Not only is it my favorite track on this LP, it's my favorite track in Jack White's discography by a considerable margin. However, from here the inconsistency in the weirdness of Boarding House Reach begins to take hold. "Why Walk a Dog" features a mix that I am not a fan of, highlighted by Jack White's muffled vocals and a baseline that is booooooooring. The album takes a positive turn for grooviness with the next track, "Corporation." I think this track is the best Boarding House Reach's vision has to offer. It's weird, it's funky, it features great parts across the board from the instrumentation, and has some pretty cool vocal lines. (Even if the lyrics are....lacking a bit)
The album continues with a disappointing bridge track, "Abulia and Akrasia," which features a voiceover that just didn't do it for me. Sadly, the same can be said of the next track, "Hyperisophoniac," which features a very distracting mix. I've tried over and over and over (wait, jumping the gun there) to get into this song, but the synths were way too distracting for me to enjoy it. "Ice Station Zebra" brings the grooviness back in a big way with some awesome instrumentation that will have your feet tapping until the end of the track. The mix on this song is incredible. As is the mix on "Over and Over and Over." (hey, there it is!) These two are enjoyable 1-2 punch, but just as soon as it starts, it ends as we arrive at the weakest song on the LP for me, "Everything You've Ever Learned." The song opens with a terrible corporate-sounding voiceover that isn't even mixed very well. Whoever's idea it was to include this voiceover needs to be fired. The rest of the song will get your feet moving, but the opening ticks me off SO much that I can't enjoy it.
"Respect Commander" has some good pacing, but the breakdown of it is a little underwhelming. It's inconsistent. Sensing a theme here? The next 3 songs all fall into the "miss" category for me, as they slow the overall pacing way down. "Ezmerelda Steals the Show" features another head scratcher on the voiceover that dominates the song, and "Get In the Mind Shaft" / "What's Done is Done" are pretty boring and unoriginal compared to the rest of the LP. They probably could've just been cut entirely. Finally, the ending track "Humoresque" is a slow burn, but is a decent conclusion to this mixed LP.
At the end of the day, this album is wildly inconsistent. I HATED this thing at first, outside of "Connected by Love." I even joked to Derek that I went through the five stages of grief with this thing on the first couple of listens. But, once I finally reached the "acceptance" stage, I came to appreciate the LP a bit more for what it is, instead of what I wanted it to be. (Star Wars fans should take note) While I do think a few of the tracks are solid misses, there's no doubt that Jack White has crafted his most daring and original solo album in his discography. While I'm not sure his genre needs something as creative as this right now as its titans are few and far between, it's here, and I have to accept the fact that it's here. At least the "Willy Wonka" of music is living up to his name.
Top Tracks: Connected by Love, Corporation, Over and Over and Over
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.