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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jack White's Lazaretto is a quirky contemporary rock album with country, blues, and some heavy metal shadings, by the former leader of the popular indie/alternative band The White Stripes. Most of the songs deal with emotional pain of some sort -- whether from broken relationships, existential angst ("I'm...becoming a ghost so nobody can know me"), or spiritual uncertainty; it's a dark journey, for sure. The lyrics are cryptic in places, occasionally bordering on the impenetrable, but repeated listening will reveal new shades of meaning for those willing to make the effort. Some of the rhythms and instrumental textures are edgy and at times jarring, but there also are melodic tunes that show White's pop inclinations and his love for traditional country music.
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What's the story?
LAZARETTO is the second solo album (after 2012's Blunderbuss) from noted Nashville-based singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer Jack White, who's best known as the driving force behind the White Stripes (as well as the short-lived groups The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather). Musically, the album shows White's fascination with American roots music -- especially country and blues -- as well as more modern rock, including bands such as Led Zeppelin and various "garage rock" antecedents. Lyrically, most of the songs deal with some sort of emotional insecurity and confusion, loneliness, and self-doubt -- not too surprising, given that creating the album was spurred by White's discovery of some stories and plays he'd written when he was a (presumably) fragile 19-year-old.
Is it any good?
Whether he's fronting a band or making an album under his own name, Jack White sounds like no one else in modern rock. His distinctive high voice, his quirky variations on traditional song forms (unusual and unpredictable tempo changes, sudden textural shifts in instrumentation, or the coloration of his always-fascinating guitar parts) make him a true original. From a lyrical perspective, White seems a bit lost on Lazaretto -- uncomfortable with who he is, unsure of what he should do, and confused, detached, and disappointed with the sorry state of the world and mankind.
Lazaretto is an emotionally dark album, but there are beautiful parts, too, and the writing is always compelling and clearly honest. Jack White's supporters should love this album. Neophytes might find it too strange and unsettling, as it's not a conventional album at all.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about American roots music. Why do you think the blues and country continue to have such an influence on rock?
How do you think Lazaretto compares with Jack White's work with the White Stripes?
Do you think this kind of emotionally dark music appeals to teens? Why, or why not?