Jack White – Blunderbuss

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Jack White‘s pretty much done everything musically speaking at this point: he’s played in various bands (White Stripes, Raconteurs, etc) and he’s produced/written with music legends.  Heck, he even got to date Bridget Jones and marry a British super model, so what does he have left to prove to us?  Absolutely nothing…and that’s the point of Blunderbuss.

Old fans of Jack’s will probably enjoy the album opener “Missing Pieces;” it seems like one of the simpler songs he’s written in a long while, not to mention the fact that his distinctive voice really takes the song’s focus.  It’s also got a muddy feel with the chorus, which provides that raw energy his early White Stripes stuff carried with it. But, he then goes into “Sixtine Saltines,” a tune that I could probably do without.  It’s a definite rocker, so if that’s the Jack you’re looking for then it’s in this song; I just hate that it comes off as braggadocio rather than fragility and ingenuity.  The juxtaposition of the many faces of Jack White is something you’ll encounter time and time again on Blunderbuss.

“Love Interruption” was the first single from the album that really grabbed hold of me because of it’s stripped down structure.  Ruby Amanfu’s presence provides Jack with a familiar female counterpart, but the delivery of the two vocals is something that varies greatly from the work he’s done with other ladies. There’s something about this tune, as well as “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep” that demonstrates White’s ability to work others backing vocals easily into his songs.  What amazes me is that on Blunderbuss they all sort of seem to come off as a bit of impromptu jams, which probably isn’t too far from the truth in the end.  These are great songs that any fan will add to their favorites list.

There’s probably some songs on this album that most people will find appealing that just haven’t sunk in as of yet.  “I’m Shakin” and “Trash Tongue Talker” delve into White’s fascination with traditional blues-influenced rock n’ roll that first won over teenagers in the early years. It’s definitely clever, and his voice is more than fitting, but these songs don’t seem to be his strength–still, you can’t blame anyone for wanting to throw a rocking stomper out there.  Funnily, these two songs (my least favorite) move right into what’s my personal standout, “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy.”  This tracks is centered around a nice bit of barroom piano, and what I suspect is a bit of banjo in the background.  It stands out to me because it illustrates just how strong a voice Jack White actually has (no matter how often I forget).  It’s not even the most complex song in the world, but you better believe it’s a sweet tune all around.

With Blunderbuss you get sort of a mixed bag of Jack White.  He throws in a few rockers (not my cup of tea) to appease that side of his fans, but for the most part these are blues/country/bluegrass/barroom influenced tunes that are by and large pretty successful.  I guess there’s only a few stunning tracks on the effort, but he’s still able to accomplish a lot more in one album than most people will do in an entire career; I’ll gladly take a solo Jack over 99.9 % of the rest of the music out there. Such are the gifts of one of America’s finest songwriters.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/04-Love-Interruption.mp3]

Download:Jack White – Love Interruption [MP3]

The Dead Weather – Sea Of Cowards

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Jack White is on a mission of late. Between three bands touring extensively in recent years, a new White Stripes’ DVD, a marriage to his model wife, Karen Elson, and 2 albums in 10 months with his latest project, there’s no shortage of insatiable, swampy blues guitar riffs in his bag of tricks (or drum licks in this particular case).  Following up 2009’s Horehound is their latest Sea of Cowards. Right away the differences between the two albums are apparent, on the vocal front, there’s more Jack White’s smarmy howl, which was primarily the Kill’s lead singer Allison Mosshart’s forte; and secondly, there’s more secure percussive stylings from White, which steadies the record as a whole from start to finish. If there was a question about their last release, it was not focused on intent or motivation, but in the execution.

At first spin of the vinyl, the bass lines and kick drum rumbled my speakers. From the first few lines of ‘Blue Blood Bones’ it’s obvious that White has been practicing. He is no doubt one of the hardest working musicians in the game nowadays, but he manages not to over-extend himself. That may be in part to surrounding himself with like-minded uber-talented musicians which push towards high quality in every collaboration. With the afore mentioned Mosshart approaching rock goddess status, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita and Raconteurs‘ bassist Jack Lawrence are by no means pushed into the shadows. Even though it may seem that way with White’s growing influence and Mosshart larger than life personality. In only 10 months the group seems to have hit their stride and are thriving in the new found confidence which translates to one of the best live shows in the world, though the creativity for song-writing is still lacking. As with the last, the intent is solid and the execution is much stronger, but the tunes just don’t carry as well on the turntable as well as they do on stage. For some, that’s not a bad thing; and I just happen to be one of those people. If you caught the group’s last stop through Austin at Stubb’s, you know exactly what I mean. These songs just can’t be contained in a formal studio release, though try as they might.

Sea of Cowards is much angrier than their former, allowing the band to show their angst and fierce nature, letting loose on tracks like ‘Hustle and Cuss’ and ‘I’m Mad’. ‘The Difference Between Us’ is the first track which solely highlights Alison Mosshart’s full potency as she dominates the track.  The first single, ‘Die By The Drop’ is no doubt one of the highlights of the album with Mosshart and White each taking turns howling alongside strong performances from Fertita and Lawrence. During ‘Looking At the Invisible Man’, White it seems to be making a symbolic gesture of his desire to step out of the spotlight and to let his accompaniment shine, and the realization that it is no use. He exclaims that he is the invisible man, though his presence is always felt. On the final track ‘Old Mary’, White recites last rites with a simple piano accompaniment before the band pounds out the finale in style. Something tells me this however is not the last breath of this rendition of White (and Company). In fact with White’s steadier percussive talent, I feel the best may be yet to come. This is by no means the best album of the year, but it is a worthy successor to Horehound.

FT5: Extended Hiatuses & Welcomed Returns

0911top5coverWe all have our hobbies. Whether it be collecting records, knitting, or making graffiti stencils, we all have something that steals away our time and makes the monotony of everyday life a little more bearable. But sometimes our hobbies consume too much of our time or, God forbid, our hobbies become just as monotonous as our day job. You must take a step back and to see what you loved about that hobby in the first place.

For this Friday Top Five we will take a look at several bands that have for one reason or another taken a break. These bands have never formally broken up; they have just gone on extended hiatus.
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FT50: Albums of the ’00s

0828top5coverWhat?   You still listen to THAT album?  That record is so 2004!  Well, that’s okay, because we really like that one too, which is why we decided to come up with a list of our favorite albums of the last decade (2000-2009).  Sure, these might not be YOUR favorite records, or the most critically acclaimed, but we sat down and really thought out every record from the past ten years that we keep coming back to in our collections.  You’re likely to disagree with some of these, and we won’t tell you we’re absolutely right we just know that these happen to be OUR favorites.  If you think we totally blew it here, feel free to tell us so, but be nice, as our egos are kind of fragile.  Follow the jump for more.

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The Von Bondies – Love, Hate and Then There’s You

vonbondie

Rating: ★★★ · ·

The Von Bondies crept out of the massive Detroit scene on the heels of The White Stripes.  They were well versed in the garage stylings known to their locale.  But, then they flipped the switch on us.  They followed up their debut with a more straightforward album, and now they completely leave it all behind as they present us with Love, Hate and Then There’s You.

From the minute this album takes off with “Shut Your Mouth” you can tell that the entire group has begun pushing towards new ground.  Sure, this opening track still revels in the garage-infused sound of old, but something new exists here, something that could lose fans while gaining scores of new ones.  It’s the pop element.

Singer Jason Stollsteimer definitely has a brooding crooner quality, which recalls the vocal quality of a certain Mr. Flowers.  It’s not entirely surprising when listening to the rest of this album, as the mood of the songs easily matches the aesthetic quality of Jason’s voice.

In a sense, the band comes off like a hard-edged version of The Killers. This isn’t too say that the band has entirely left behind their past in favor of a more commercial appeal to the masses.  “Only to Haunt You” has the feeling of dark swirling pop melodies that garnered acclaim for the aforementioned band.  Still, the band holds on to the darker element of this genre, fueled by the precise rhythm section. This batch of songs is clearly the most accessible set of tunes they’ve created up to this point, and the culmination of this point may be welcomed by many.

All the songs are short, and they hit your ears quickly.  Occasionally, the vocals are matched with feuding vocal elements from Jason’s female counterpart, which give the band a bit of grit, though they never stray to far from the middle of the road. Therein lies one of the problems with this record: nothing here sounds entirely new to the listener.  This isn’t mean to knock on the band entirely, as its quite difficult to produce purely original sounds nowadays, but this just seems a bit to easy for the band.  At times the songs seem a bit uninspired, almost as if the band were just throwing about demos inside their studio.

Strong moments do exist throughout the entirety of this record, such as on “Accidents Will Happen.” Here you find the and bouncing along appropriately, as guitars jangle.  But, you’ll also find a certain rawness to the vocals, which show that Von Bondies still like to stay close to home.  They can’t seem to move on from their own history.

In the end, you find a band wavering on a middle ground, stuck between a poppier quality that is bubbling beneath the surface and their classic garage sound.  Many will find that the pop elements warrant approval, while others will relish in the fact that the band could definitely hit it a lot harder.  You decide.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/04-only-to-haunt-you.mp3]

Download:  Von Bondies – Only to Haunt You [MP3]

New Music From The Pack AD

Our Canadian friends the Pack AD have a new song for you enjoyment. The song is called “Making Gestures” and come from the bands soon to be released Funeral Mixtape due out on August 12th. They sort of sound like a cross between The White Stripes & The Black Keys with a girl singing. Read more about them over on that all to familiar social network.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/the-pack-ad-making-gestures.mp3]

Download: makinggestures.mp3