Nostalgic fans of The White Stripes may remember Jack White for his brash guitar playing and garage-rock days, but his new album, Boarding House Reach, takes an entirely experimental turn from White’s typical style.
White, a multi-faceted musician initially known for his contribution to the duo The White Stripes, released his album Boarding House Reach on Friday March 23.
Songs from White’s first solo album in 2012—Blunderbuss—grabbed listeners’ attention with the pounding electronic piano keys, messily crashing drums and gyrating guitar chords. White’s tenor voice—loud, passionate and annoyed—was always syncopated with the drumbeats and easily audible above the instruments.
The first song of Boarding House Reach, “Connected by Love,” begins with a wobbling electronic-wave sound. When White comes in with his hard-hitting, whining vocals, the song feels reminiscent of his old albums.
“Ice Station Zebra,” too, includes White’s screeching and angry words with a powerful message and heavy drums, a similar sound to many of White’s older material. These two songs, however, are where the resemblance to his former works stops.
Many of White’s succeeding songs are heavily electronic, and his signature voice is muted and blurred behind synthesizer layers. For example, although “Over and Over and Over” begins with heavy rock guitar and drums, the song fades into echoes of various robotic-sounding voices for the chorus.
This is not to say that White’s new electronic influence has obscured his talent. The song “What’s Done is Done” is a clear example of White’s musicality. This piece is much slower than the rest of the album and has strong electronic background tones, effectively soothing the listener with the strength of White’s voice. “What’s Done is Done” successfully forms a new genre of a combination of alternative, country and mellow rock.
The final song of the album, “Humoresque,” is actually devoid of electronic noise; however, is still different from White’s typical style. Dark and jazzy piano chords control the piece, with tidy drumbeats keeping time. White sings quietly over the jazz sound, and the song is distinctly separate from anything he previously created.
The cover of White’s album is a person who appears to have no concrete gender, which reflects the theme of the song, “Ice Station Zebra.” This song protests labeling human beings into cookie-cutter categories.
The lyrics state, “Everything in the world gets labeled a name … you don’t have to listen to any of the label makers, printing your obituary.” In fact, the entire album seems to protest several different problems in society.
“What’s Done is Done” deals with a seemingly suicidal narrator who decides, in the end, to kill himself after feeling lost and alone.
One song that also comments on society is “Why Walk a Dog.” This tracks is packed with emotion, examining the horrific concept of pet-breeding and purchasing animals as if they are objects for human pleasure, instead of living things.
Similarly, “Hypermisophoniac” and “Abulia and Akrasia” both try to communicate to listeners how it feels to have the conditions that the songs are named after.
“Hypermisophoniac,” for example, begins with the clicking noise of something like a fidget cube and deals with the struggles of someone excruciatingly incensed by mildly annoying sounds.
“Abulia and Akrasia” is about the conditions abulia, having a lack of will to do things, and akrasia, having a lack of self-control.
Anyone willing to go on an adventure of sound and explore a variety of subjects will enjoy White’s montage of various themes and genres.