This week, Jack White dropped two singles from his forthcoming album, Boarding House Reach. The album, set to be released in March, will be Jack White’s third solo album, and his first since his 2014 Lazaretto.
White, formerly a member of the White Stripes, has had a solo career marked by biting lyrics backed by the scream of electric blues. In “Love Interruption,” one of the best songs from Blunderbuss, he pairs a folk-like acoustic sound with violent words like “I want love to walk right up and bite me.” This style is carried throughout all of Blunderbuss, whether it’s on ballads like “Love Interruption,” or covers like “I’m Shakin’.”
With his sophomore solo effort, Lazaretto, White evolves this aggressive rock style even further. In “The Black Bat Licorice,” he connects the narration of his lyrics to the physical action of playing rock music with the line, “Just a buncha’ propaganda, make my fingers histrionic; / Like this, and this,” as he shreds a blues guitar solo.
In both Blunderbuss and Lazaretto, White wove garage crunch and folk fiddle into traditional blues riffs in an angry and powerful sound that aligned with the attitude of his generation. He became one of the modern masters of post-punk, the super pale goth guy with jet-black hair that successfully carried the stomping noise of the White Stripes into the post-2010 music scene.
But in “Connected by Love” and “Respect Commander,” this all starts to change. Half of the appeal of Jack White lies in his creatively fiery lyrics, but this quality is completely missing from “Connected by Love.” He opens his verses with lines that address someone, like “Woman, don’t you know what I’m suffering from?” or “Friend of mine, you seem to know me best.” Yes, these lyrics are almost universally relatable, but not in the surprisingly insightful way that White accomplished in his previous albums. The mantra of the song, “Connected by love,” is so non-specific that it loses its strength in delivery as the sway of the song builds.
Similarly, “Respect Commander” also lacks a lot of the Jack White of the past. At almost five minutes in length, there’s plenty of room for his usual biting wit, yet he gives us only two short, abstract verses, with lyrics like, “She has all my respect / And I cannot protect / My heart from her command,” that have you nodding along as the song plays, but frankly, leaves you thinking “What the fuck does that mean?” once it’s over.
That being said, these are only the first two releases from Boarding House Reach, and the single he released in 2017, “Servings and Portions from my Boarding House Reach,” had some much more captivating samples on it. The guitar, drums, and bass are all still there, but without the sharp lyrics. It feels noticeably different from anything Jack White, or the White Stripes for that matter, has ever put out.