John Anthony Gillis, better known as Jack White, is a relevant and renowned musician. Known for his quirkiness - his resilient, angry face and typical messed-up hair at a baseball game, his simple request for "no bananas" at a concert that turned to chaos and people calling him a diva, his obsession with the number 3, and his tendency to use vintage styles of recording (The White Stripes smash hit "Elephant" was recorded on a reel-to-reel, and Lazaretto was done entirely on analog and edited with an Exacto knife), Jack White is definitely a force to be reckoned with. On his sophomore attempt, Lazaretto, well...it's certainly not his best work, in my opinion.
A lazaretto is defined as a hospital or a sort of exile for those who have highly contagious diseases, and this album mainly reflects on the concepts of being trapped or confined. "Any place where there's a time to clear my vision."
The album opens up on "Three Women", a bluesy riff about a narrator being tasked to pick, well, one woman from the three in front of him - a redhead, a blond, and a brunette. "It took a digital photograph to pick which one I liked," he recalls - so unlike Jack! Hence why he didn't write the song from his perspective. It's fairly solid, with some sweet little riffs courtesy of White himself, but it's nothing to write home about.
"Lazaretto" could be considered the lost White Stripes song, the missing link - but with more than just Meg's simple little drum beats behind Jack's pulsing, screeching guitar noises. It's powerful, earth-shattering - one of Jack's best songs.
"Temporary Ground" may come as a shock to former Stripes fans. Yes, the Stripes have dabbled in country-esque music (Hotel Yorba comes to mind), but they never seemed to divert from their roots of blues rock, punk rock, and garage rock. It opens up to a hauntingly beautiful violin, played by Lillie Mae Rische, who also carries her weight as an excellent vocalist and counterpart to Jack's imperfect and rough vocals. Yes, it's startling to hear country music, but it works to Jack's advantage.
"Would You Fight For My Love?" was one of the four singles from the album. The music video stars Jack, with (gasp!) short hair, in a bar that is decked out in all blue. The scene is dull, starring Jack continuously droning on about wanting someone to fight for his love. We get it, Jack - you've been through two divorces. But both of them were most likely your fault. Get over it, you had enough time to brood and act emo when you were a White Stripe.
"High Ball Stepper" left me confused after hearing it for the first time. I was upset, disappointed. It sounded like just noise to me, screeching guitars overlayed with violins. And not to mention, the single was released April 1st of last year - it felt like a joke. But after hearing it more and more often, I grew accustomed to it. It's not the best, but it seems to work as a crunchy, raw tune. Think of the White Stripes track "Aluminum", but remove Jack's overedited, machine-based vocalization and add more violins.
"I drink water, you drink gasoline/One of us is happy, one of us is mean", Jack explains on the track "Just One Drink". It's a country-rock fusion and a duet, but it's fairly powerful, and maybe one of my favorites from the album.
"Alone in my Home" is another country-esque song, but with plenty of sweet little piano tunes played throughout. But it's fairly dark lyrically. It shows the inner struggles withing Jack's soul, but, fun fact: most of the inspiration from this album came from a journal Jack wrote at 19. This album predated much of his music career. While we can assume that it all comes from his young-adult emotions, it would be fair to say that maybe half of it is based on his old writings. But I don't know. Who knows for sure? One thing I do know is that "Alone in my Home" is fairly ironic because it sounds upbeat and chipper but with twisted, dark lyrics.
"Entitlement" is fairly unique, but it gets a bit repetitive - even with logical, meaningful lyrics. "We don't deserve a single damn thing," Jack sings at the end, seemingly coming to a realization about people who are privileged and entitled, to the point where material objects mean nothing to him. He says this in a way, as if he's reflecting on a hard day's work, having trekked up a hill and is now sitting, watching the sunset, guitar in hand.
"That Black Bat Licorice" is one of the most unique songs for multiple reasons. First, the song hits you like a punch in the face, or a nice break from all of the countrified music, depending on your view of the situation. Secondly, it describes a struggle unique to White himself - the desire to clear his mind and his vision, take a break from the electronic-overriden, materialistic, and mad world. Even if it means he's being locked up, hospitalized, imprisoned, enlisted in armies. But hey - all in the name of clearing your mind, right?
"I Think I Found The Culprit" bores me half to sleep. It just lacks meaning to me. Yes, it's good musically, but I'm not feeling like I did the first time hearing "Black Bat Licorice" - or even my first time hearing some of the more "emo" White Stripes songs (Most of White Blood Cells is fairly reflective and emotional, that's what I'm referring to when I call the group emo).
"Want And Able" would be one of my favorites, if not for Jack's vocals. He layered his vocals, one being his typical lowish singing voice and the other almost a falsetto. It's grating, to say the least, especially compared to his singing in the White Stripes. Before the cigarettes and screaming hit his vocal cords, he could hit high notes with ease - his voice was fairly feminine in the early days. But now it just hurts to listen to. Vocals aside, though, it's fantastic lyrically, with the repetitive verse "Who is the who, telling who what to do?" I don't know, Jack, maybe we'll figure it out someday.