Jack is back. First new album for four years for the former White Stripes polymath. This time he holed himself up in an apartment and let his creativity run wild. Boarding House Reach explores rock and roll, punk, electro, gospel and everything in between. A tour de force of his abilities to experiment and surprise.
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What is interesting is how a man who wrote such simple songs that cut straight to the chase has managed to become so bloated. Opener here 'Connected By Love' has several organ and guitar solos, a gospel choir, burping electronics, a breakdown section, quiet vocals, shouted vocals, a kitchen sink. What did 'Seven Nation Army' have. Go on, tell me?
But that's the issue faced by a multi millionaire who can do what the hell he likes. So much choice - loads of ideas but not many of them good ones. On 'Why Walk A Dog' (I don't know Jack because the housekeeper is busy?) he again uses burbles of electronics to build up a bluesy ballad that is interrupted by the most disagreeable guitar solo. White has many talents and I would say that in the world he is generally A Good Thing but this album seems to be a vacuous musical holiday. He tries everything - from slinky 70's funk on 'Corporation' to bizarre spoken word nonsense 'Abulia and Akrasia' which seems to feature Sir Les Patterson on lead voice to 'comedy' skits that you'll never play again.
There's lots of trying to be Prince or Beck and going way 'out there' but lots of it sounds like a collaboration between Eugene Chadbourne and Flight of the Conchords. For someone who almost singlehandedly made rock music exciting again there are so many missteps and blind alleys. Occasionally the random, jazzy passages are matched with something that approaches conventional rock music and it's moments like these that excite. 'Over and Over and Over' is a blitzkreig blast somewhere between Black Sabbath and the Residents but it's a rarity in that it has structure to it.
Most of it is a mess...a folly of the highest order. You certainly wouldn't want to listen to it but I kind of respect White for doing what the hell he likes.
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