Where To Start With... Jack White
Since the emergence of his band The White Stripes at the very back end of the 90s, Jack White has been one of the most prolific artists in recent memory. In addition to the six White Stripes albums he’s also released two albums as a member of The Raconteurs, the band he formed with Brendan Benson, another two with The Dead Weather, where he added playing the drums to his long list of musical talents, and a solo album, the Grammy-nominated Blunderbuss, released under his own name.
On top of all that he has also been involved in collaborations with the likes of Electric Six, co-written a James Bond theme with Alicia Keys and featured as a guest on a host of other records, including Rome, the Spaghetti Western-inspired joint project from producer Danger Mouse and composer Daniele Lippi.
As if that wasn’t enough he’s also worked as a producer for many artists - particularly those from his hometown of Detroit - and founded Third Man Records, a Nashville-based label boasting its own studio, where White has produced albums for the likes of Neil Young.
Next week marks the release of his third solo album, Boarding House Reach, which sees White venturing into his most experimental territory yet. Opening track 'Connected by Love' is a case in point; a slow-burning ballad filled with moody, throbbing synth basslines and swirling organs.
Elsewhere, the songs on the new record are still very identifiable in terms of White's signature sound, but it's in the songs' structure and production techniques that things start to get really wild. 'Corporation' is powered by a pounding breakbeat and rumbles on for a full three minutes before there's any hint of a proper lyric, while 'Ice Station Zebra', a track culled from White's abandoned collaboration with Jay-Z, blenss hip-hop style beats with a stuttering bassline and jazzy piano licks. 'Respect Commander' is a thrillingly unhinged jam session that barely manages to conform to any particular style for more than a few seconds at a time, but it's on standout track 'Over and Over and Over' that White begins to settle into more familiar territory with a typically snaky guitar riff and a gloriously weird, almost operatic vocal hook.
Boarding House Reach finds White challenging himself and his listeners, and while some of it might not be as instantly accessible as his previous solo releases, it might well be his most interesting album yet.
To celebrate its release, we took a look back over his career and picked out five of the best moments from his many musical ventures. You can also listen to 'Over and Over and Over' below...
'Seven Nation Army'
There are many ways to measure a successful career in the music industry - chart positions, record sales, radio airplay and world tours being some of them - but there is a marker of success that transcends all the usual industry measurements: the moment when one of your songs becomes a staple on the football terraces. So it is with 'Seven Nation Army'. The opening salvo from The White Stripes fourth album, Elephant, the song features a riff so memorable it can be heard emanating from stadiums as far flung as Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana and Milan’s San Siro. There are many fine moments on Elephant, but 'Seven Nation Army' has to rank as the most universally recognised.
'Steady As She Goes'
The first single from Broken Boy Soldiers, the debut by The Raconteurs, an indie supergroup of sorts that features Brendon Benson as well as Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, the rhythm section from The Greenhornes, ‘Steady As She Goes’ begins sounding like a Joe Jackson song until the drum rhythm shifts and White’s crunching, stuttering guitar licks take the song somewhere else entirely. Finishing the job with a powerful but melodic singalong chorus, it’s one of the catchiest tunes Jack White has been involved with.
'Two Against One'
This co-write with Daniele Lippi and Brian Burton - aka Danger Mouse - is a slow, acoustic guitar-led ballad that shows there is more to White’s vocal abilities than full-throttle blues growling and screeching falsetto. Taken from Rome, it was the lead single from the album and is comfortably one of its standout tracks.
Taken from The White Stripes fifth album, Get Behind Me Satan, the album’s opener really kicks things off with a bang. ‘Blue Orchid’ is a stomping, four to the floor riff-fest accompanied by White venting his frustration, although he has claimed the lyrics are not a reference to his relationship at the time with actress Rene Zellweger (“You took a white orchid and turned it blue / How dare you? / How old are you now, anyway?”). Heavy, raw and mercilessly addictive, it’s one of the band’s best ever moments.
Featuring on his first solo album, Blunderbuss, ’I’m Shakin’ is a cover version of a song originally recorded by Little Willie John in 1960, but as with the other covers Jack White has recorded, here he puts his distinctive stamp on the song and brings it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Featuring a swinging riff, baffling time signature and some glorious, crackling vocals, despite being a cover version it’s one of the best moments on his first solo effort.