Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-05-22


Jack White: Blunderbuss (Third Man/Columbia, 2012) Two factors underlie the profitability of a lifelong conceptual art project devoted to woman-friendly roots-rock: the pop market's naked hunger for tune, which the conceptmaster respects as a roots-rock essential, and its recidivist hankering for blues-based guitar, which the conceptmaster reconstitutes more snazzily than his coequal Derek Trucks--who, you will note, does his most meaningful work in his uncle's band, and that includes the roots-rock corn he sows with the gifted blues musician he married. Trucks has more chops, but White has more audacity, and his nominal solo debut is as striking sonically as any album he's ever authorized. His respect for tune notwithstanding, however, its most fetching song by far is Rudy Toombs's "I'm Shakin'," covered in a version that resembles the Blasters' rocker far more than Little Willie John's shiftier original. I blame this shortfall on White's disregard for a roots-rock essential called groove. Carla Azar does have more jam than Meg White, but not enough. With hip-hop ever beyond him, maybe he should give Cindy Blackman a call. A-

The White Stripes: Elephant (V2, 2003) Everybody else's favorite White Stripes album still isn't mine, but I admit I underrated it. This was because I sensed Jack White was the annoying neoprimitivist scold we now know him to be, but hadn't figured out how to process it, which is to ignore his content while giving it up to his formal imagination and command. The game changer here was what we'll call the "Blitzkrieg Bop" effect. When a riff turns into a stadium slam jam the way "Seven Nation Army" has, fools just hate it forever. Me, I lay my offering at the feet of the populist gods and tip my baseball cap to people a lot worse than Jack White. Gary Glitter, most prominently. Hell, Metallica. A-

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