To prepare myself to listen to Jack White’s album Boarding House Reach that was released last Friday, I did a few things. First, I listened to some of his popular songs from his previous band, The White Stripes, such as “Seven Nation Army” and “We’re Going To Be Friends.” Those songs had a familiar comfort, as I recognized their tunes.
My next step was to listen to “Servings and Portions from my Boarding House Reach,” a collage of the songs from his upcoming album. I was struck by the stark contrast between the predictable and rhythmic music of The White Stripes and the erratic, almost manic energy of White’s personal collage. Just like a photo collage has pictures messily taped together with scribbles of dates and places, the album collage felt like different parts of each song were just taped together… but somehow it kind of worked. So I was intrigued and waited eagerly for the whole album to come out.
It was kind of a let down. The album (if you can even call a mishmosh of country, rock, synthesizers, screaming and orchestra an album) is confusing to follow, yet entertaining in a “what the hell am I listening to?” kind of way.
The album starts off strong, though. “Connected by Love” has a solid, catchy beat and a somewhat poetic depth when White sings “Forgive me, and save me / From myself / Don’t forsake me, woman / And go and choose somebody else.” This portrays his underlying idea that we all have pain in our lives and that sometimes we push away the people that we love.
After that, the album goes downhill. Honestly, if you can make it through the third song, “Corporation,” and all of its unnecessary screaming then you deserve a gold star. White then moves on to “Abulia and Akrasia,” which starts by featuring the soft music of an orchestra and a piano while White speaks — a decent track if you can get over how weird it is that White is speaking over the music. The juxtaposition with the previous song is bizarre, though, and the transition from “Abulia and Akrasia” to “Hypermisophoniac” is even stranger due to the addition of a synthesizer.
If you’re going to listen to the album, I recommend “Connected by Love,” “Abulia and Akrasia,” “Everything You’ve Ever Learned” (for its futuristic vibe), “What’s Done is Done” (not sure which is crazier, that I’m recommending a country song or that this album even includes one) and “Humoresque.”
After listening to his previous single album, Lazaretto, one can appreciate White and his artistic ability. In fact, I think that Boarding House Reach is getting a lot of its hype because of White’s impressive resume. And rightfully so. While I don’t love this album, White’s talent is undeniable. Not only does he play the guitar, drums, piano and sing, but he’s become a producer for his own record label, Third Man Records. White’s music with The White Stripes dominated and influenced the early 2000’s rock band scene, paving the way for many other artists (and winning a few Grammys along the way). He was later part of popular bands The Raconteurs (you might recognize the hit single “Steady, As She Goes”) and The Dead Weather. White further demonstrated his artistic versatility by collaborating with artists of different genres such as Beyoncé and Norah Jones.
To give White some credit for Boarding House Reach, he does bring the album full circle and tells a story. He starts with the semi-optimistic view that we are “Connected By Love,” but then in his second to last song, “What’s Done Is Done,” he comes to the conclusion that “I just can’t fight it no more / So, I’m walking downtown to the store / And I’m buying a gun,” showing that he has given up. His final song, “Humoresque,” is very light and almost angelic as he sings “Over the air, you gently float / Into my soul.” Does this symbolize his death? Or immortality? If you are a fan of Jack White and are interested in his progression as a musician, definitely check out this album, but if not, I don’t blame you for skipping it.
Rachel Mattessich is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.