JACK WHITE is in no need of a print boost. The guy's been a natural rock star since the White Stripes' color-coordinated blues-punk battery burst onto the scene with 2001's White Blood Cells, propelling Detroit's underground garage-rock scene toward the international spotlight.
Since relocating to Nashville, and following last year's disbandment of the duo that made him famous (along with presumed hiatuses from the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather), White's Southern susceptibilities—be they still mired in a kind of punk-rock holding pattern—have taken strong root, resulting in his first solo album, Blunderbuss, as well as some interesting collaboration liberties. A rumored session at White's studio this summer with Radiohead yielded much ballyhooing; last year's Insane Clown Posse partnership for the single "Leck Mich Im Arsch" (translation: "Lick me in the arse") prompted some deadly serious head scratching.
Still, say what you may about White's insular recording quirks (his own Third Man Records label is a great producer of exclusive vinyl, and all sorts of other neato nostalgia), his reported tripwire temper (remember when he decked the singer for the Von Bondies?), or the vaudevillian plumage of his old-timey devotions (his enigmatic scarecrow/preacher visage is both diva-ish and strangely awesome)—there's no denying his passion and talent for resurrecting the spirit of haunted old blues tunes, garage-punk sneer, and experimentalism. Plainly, the man rocks.
Blunderbuss debuted atop Billboard's Top 100 list and hit number one in the UK and Switzerland as well, reaffirming his already colossal following. This was no accident: Blunderbuss revisits some of the sonic territory of the much-missed Stripes, but is given a booster shot by way of big, rhythmic drumming, warm organs, and White's signature buzzsaw guitar wrangling.
The album's second single, "Sixteen Saltines," in particular, homes in on White's manic sensibilities, segueing nasal-screeched verses into falsetto-and-riff-heavy bridges, showcasing his proven strengths while imbuing the listener with slightly higher levels of pop coating.
The only question left is whether White will summon his all-female group the Peacocks or the all-male Buzzards to back him up for the Portland stop of his tour. Weird birds, or weirder birds? The wagering starts here.