Jack White – Boarding House Reach
Jack White comes out firing on his third solo record Boarding House Reach. ‘Connected By Love’ is an ostentatious gospel-rocker that serves as a thrilling, almost theatrical opening number.
Musically, it’s not exactly a sign of what’s to come, because this is a record that’s so diverse that packing all of White’s ideas into one track would be too off-the-wall for even this eccentric rock auteur. But its lashings of synth and gospel vocals does give a few hints as to what’s to come.
White is an ambitious musician, and his atypical ideas have ensured he remains to stand out from the pack. Boarding House Reach is a typical Jack White record, in that it sees him continue to straddle the line between straight-up classic rock and warped sonic experimentation. It brings some weirdness closer to the middle of the road.
It wouldn’t be a Jack White record without explorations into genres he’s not renowned for.
‘Corporation’ brings a little Afro-funk to the table, and White actually does a pretty solid job of it, for a white, 42-year-old multi-millionaire in 2018. When he starts singing, three minutes or so into the track, he gives off his best Jon Spencer impression, and that’s not so bad either.
‘Hypermisophoniac’ is a warped piece of perfectly layered, completely unpredictable avant-garde rock. It’s the most interesting blend of the absurd and the alluring that White achieves here – truly weird stuff that somehow never falls to pieces.
While ‘Ice Station Zebra’ is an ever-changing part-jazz/part-hip hop/part-funk jam that is among the most playful moments of White’s career.
Hearing C.W. Stoneking on the moody interlude ‘Abulia and Akrasia’ is a huge thrill, and that’s not just nationalistic pride. He fits on the track perfectly, and it serves as a reminder of White’s judicious use of guests in perhaps unexpected ways.
By the time you get to ‘Get in the Mind Shaft’, the spoken word stuff starts to grate a little. But that track’s deep synth groove makes it well worth sticking around for.
He doesn’t try and make everything super-weird, though. ‘Over and Over and Over’ is soaring psych rock’n’roll that doesn’t stray too far from the genre’s usual trademarks.
‘What’s Done Is Done’ is the album’s least adventurous song. A straight-down-the-line gospel ballad with only subtle synth weirdness. That’s not a bad thing. After so many ideas flying around for the previous 40 minutes, a bit of almost-normalcy is quite welcome. Much the same can be said for its follow-up, the closing piano ballad ‘Humoresque’.
The argument can, and probably should, be made that a trip back to the source material White apes so many ideas from is a more considerate way of getting your fill of this kind of music. But ignore White’s adventurous fusion at your own peril.
It’s kinda reassuring that an artist like Jack White can continue to push himself into all sorts of new and (largely) exciting territories, while remaining one of the world’s biggest artists. Boarding House Reach will serve as a curio more than a classic, but nevertheless an exciting addition to this adventurous artist’s catalogue.