A White Wedding: Something Old, Something New!
We might have thought the big news about Jack White this week was the release of his album Fear Of The Dawn (8 April 2022; Third Man Records), but he has topped that by marrying Black Belles’ singer-songwriter Olivia Jean live onstage during his show at Detroit’s Masonic Temple Theatre.
And as if that was not enough he has also announced another big release (the folk-driven Entering Heaven Alive) in a few months time. In fact the only reason the two albums weren’t released on the same day was because there wasn’t sufficient capacity available to produce so many vinyls!
When White was thinking about the cover art for Fear Of The Dawn he gave a number of key words – such as midnight, fear, dusk etc - to several illustrators and asked them for a design. In that process he saw a concept emerge that might be summed up by the idea that the night is the time of both dreams and nightmares; and that all the rules of the day can be shed.
Using this as a point of departure White mixes up a number of his trademark high-energy heavy tracks with a lot of experimental work which, it has to be said, doesn’t always gell. That doesn’t matter to White however, as he himself explained: “I made mistakes. I would play drums last, which you’re not supposed to do. But then I started to feed off of that. I thought, ‘I like that.’ I liked that it was wrong.”
One example of that approach is on the track Hi-De-Ho, where he throws traditional structures out of the door. For example, White samples jazz singer Cab Calloway and mixes it with rap from A Tribe Called Quest; he takes some funk and then adds a piece of acoustic Spanish guitar; at times this feels thrilling and at others discombobulating.
The album kicks off however with two absolute stormers, which White describes as “heavy… sort of like a left-right punch.” The frontman plays all the instruments on lead single Taking Me Back, which he says was a challenge, because he prefers to be “in a room with other people.” Musically, this might be described as ‘a storm of fuzz rock’, while lyrically it is perhaps the most coherent song in this collection. “You’re taking me back, I’ll bet you do!” he roars to an ex.
Another powerful track, Fear of the Dawn, follows, on which he appears to take on the role of a fretful vampire: “I don’t fear you, I fear the dawn, I fear the sun coming on!” It is the raw power of the music that is the best part of this song, however, which is emphasized by White ‘letting the dog off the leash’ on his Fender three-wheel-motion Low Rider Telecaster.
Of the more experimental tunes I most enjoyed the funk-driven Into The Twilight, which samples Naked Lunch novelist William S. Burroughs. “When you cut into the present, the future leaks out,” croaks the legendary pioneer of the cut up technique and all things alternative. Jazz, blues and guitar breaks all add flavour to this musical stream of consciousness.
White, now nearer to 50 than 40, continues to innovate, and it’s a crazy ride he takes us on. I prefer it when he goes all out heavy, but at the same time I greatly respect his risk-taking. As he said himself about his approach: “Every time I go in, I’m trying to do something I haven’t done before”.