Jack White gets plenty of dissatisfaction on second solo work ‘Lazaretto’

Annie Zaleski
Three and a half stars

Jack White Lazaretto

Jack White’s musical endeavors always seem to have an underlying tension between spontaneity and planning, starting with how the meticulous color scheme of the White Stripes gave way to riotous garage-punk blues. Still, White’s second solo full-length, Lazaretto, is his most carefully constructed album yet. For starters, he took a year and a half to perfect tracks he and collaborators initially put together in 2012. But beyond process, Lazaretto is deliberate in its obtuseness; there isn’t a hooky single such as “I’m Shakin’” or a scorched rocker such as “Sixteen Saltines.” Instead, the record is full of frustration simmering just below the surface; its protagonists don’t get what they want, are desperate for love that’s just out of reach, and retreat emotionally and physically in reaction to past slights.

The dissatisfied vibe increases thanks to Lazaretto’s detail-oriented music, courtesy of White’s backing bands the Peacocks and the Buzzards. The funky title track boasts forceful hip-hop cadences, while other songs touch on boogie gospel-blues (“Three Women”), keening country-rock (the pedal-steel-and-fiddle-laced “Temporary Ground”) shambling classic rock (“Alone In My Home”) and cracked folk (“Entitlement”). The closest Lazaretto gets to feeling out of control is “Would You Fight For My Love?”, a Mark Lanegan-esque gothic tantrum with searing electric guitar, stomping grooves and fainting-spell wails. The song ends with one final White order: “I want you to fight for my love.” It’s a command that feels genuine, but could just as easily be false bravado. Either way, the ambiguity is creepy and disorienting—much like the rest of Lazaretto.

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