Throughout the years, Jack White has become an icon in the world of modern rock. From his days in The White Stripes and throughout all of his solo albums, his signature style and exceptional guitar playing have been easy to detect. However, in Boarding House Reach, his third solo album, White strays from his rock roots and explores a wide variety of musical styles with notable soul, country, electronic, r&b and jazz influences strewn throughout each of the songs.
Only three of the songs on the album seem to resemble White’s previous work– “Connected by Love,” “Corporation” and “Over and Over and Over.” Each of these tracks feature catchy riffs, rock melodies and prominent guitar solos that White’s fans associate him with.
As personal as the album feels during a first listen– White’s emotional lyrics take center stage on tracks like “What’s Done is Done”– his experimental choices come across as a bit extreme and ultimately dilute the overall meaning of the album. A lot of White’s lyrics are spoken word rather than sung–resembling spoken word poetry, as they are deep, often metaphorical and extremely obscure.
Each song on the album is completely different and tackles many different genres of music at once– often reverting back to common jazz and soul motifs. Although the soulful organ, string bass, obscure 80’s synthesizers and background singers remain prominent throughout many of the songs, it seems as if White is taking on too much within a single album. Within each song, the genre shifts rapidly along with the time signature and mood, making it difficult to find common themes.
Perhaps the most off-putting aspect of the entire album is White’s rap vocals in “Ice Station Zebra”, the sixth track on the album. As rap music is not something that White normally experiments with, the resulting lyrics (“No, that’s an insult, yo…I ain’t got but no one, Listen up, son”) and their delivery was unnatural, as expected, and distracted from the otherwise pleasant, jazzy groove in the background.
Fans of Jack White should be prepared to experience something entirely different from what they are used to hearing from him, but if they listen carefully, the resulting sound of Boarding House Reach is one that is intriguing– it’s a great album for those looking to find obscure references and recognize different aspects of different genres.