Jack White: Boarding House Reach: A hyperbolic review
When the first single for this album dropped I remember sitting on my couch laying around from a hospital visit thinking how tired I was from dealing with doctors and health procedures and damn dirty needles, so my first thought of seeing a new Jack White album was more along the terms of “oh neat” rather than the overly inflated “EVERYBODY SHUT UP, OUR LORD AND SAVOIR OF MODERN MUSIC HAS SOMETHING TO SAY!” that I typically give to artist I just so happen to enjoy. If that run on sentence turned you off from this review than good, because there’s a lot that I’m going to say about this album, and run on sentences will be a plenty, so I’ll be sure to coat in some commas here, and there, just for the sake of seeming less run on.
Boarding House Reach is Jack White’s third solo album, and judging by the recent report of his record company, Third Man Records, saying that they are about a million dollars in the red, it may just be their big hope to keeping things a float. So no pressure.
This album starts off on the lead single, “Connected by Love” this is the song I said “oh neat” to. The first thing any avid Jack White listener will notice on this track is that distinctly electric sound that hits you right when the song begins. Jack White’s previous solo albums have had a bluesy and country vibe to them and it never felt like Jack had the urge to go out and explore the musical realm past fundamentals, that being said, it doesn’t mean Jack didn’t experiment with genre and instrumentation in his previous releases. But this, this is new, Jack has a drum machine and I get the distinct feeling he knows how to use it, because of this however, there’s this sudden feel of synthetic styling that I never would associate with Jack White. In essence “Connected by Love” starts the album off with a question, “what can we do with electronics?” But the performance definitely gives the impressions of growing pains as the song sound distinctly Jack White in the choruses but the verses seem written by someone else. “Why Walk a Dog” is trash. There’s a short non run on sentence for you. The song asks the questions about the ethics of owning pets. But damn, Jack, when did you decide to join PETA? The track is about two and a half minutes of Jack asking a weird question to weird music. There’s very little to remember about “Why Walk a Dog” other than the ridiculous
philosophy and ethics questions. I like dogs and Jack’s own questions of the ethics of pet ownership won’t reach me when the man literally wrote a song about digging through people’s trash.
“Corporation” is nothing less than a highlight. Everything this album hopes to achieve in all of its weird electronic sounds and odd lyrical styles is in “Corporation.” One minor complaint I hold with the song is that I am almost certain the drum are ripped right out of “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin. It may just be me, but I swear it’s incredibly uncanny. I can almost hear the shriek of Robert Plant over the drums before the distorted guitars come to remind me, oh yeah this is a Jack White song.
“Ice Station Zebra” is a testament to everything I love about Jack White. I will fight in a crusade amongst all the other Jack White fan boys to state that this song is the pinnacle of Jack White. It’s weird, it’s eccentric, and I can’t stop freaking out over this track since the first time I heard it. Once I heard Jack White described as rock music’s Herbie Hancock and I didn’t believe it at first, but once “Ice Station Zebra” came down in a fit of clouds and heavenly light and graced these unworthy sinner ears of mine, I understood everything. I am not worthy of this track, I use to love “15” by Buckcherry, you are not worthy of this track, nobody is worthy of this song but Jack White has seen past our sins to deliver this golden gem upon our lives and that is why Jack White must be canonized as a saint. I can forgive a million, “Why Walk a Dogs” if I get something as interesting and unpredictable as this. It is only after listening to the next track the melodramatic “Over and Over and Over” that I realize Jack White is human like me and I shed a tear in the security of imperfection.
The album then goes into fits of spoken word and strange sounds with the tracks, “Everything You’ve Ever Learned,” “Respect Commander,” “Ezmerelda Steals the Show,” and “Get in the Mind Shaft.” Some of the instrumentations of these track work really well, especially in “Respect Commander,” and “Get in the Mind Shaft.” It sort of feels like Jack White had listened to “Headhunters” by Herbie Hancock before writing this album and he wanted to answer back with his own collection of weird eccentric electronics. In particular, it reminds me a lot of the track “Watermelon Man” off the “Headhunters” album. Either way every track aside from “Ezmerelda Steals the Show” has a sense of instrumentation that makes me question, how or why he did that, and I appreciate any song that can get my mind thinking. “Ezmerelda Steals the Show” is more or less Jack grabbing the soap box he had used from “Why Walk a Dog” to talk about the evils of smart phones. Thanks Jack, at least he uses some pretty poetic lines to deliver more to this tired old argument.
Hey kids, do you want to hear some electronic elements in your country? NO? Why not? Well, Jack already did that in “What’s Done is Done” and I still don’t know how to feel about it. I know it’s my job to know what to say about music, but holy crap. I got nothing. I’m speechless. This album has put me in a speechless status. The song is good, but why is there a drum machine on this track? Why is there such a wobbly out of tune organ in the bass? Is this the real life? Or is this just fantasy? What is this track? It doesn’t need any of this extra electronic stuff, but it slightly works. I’m so speechless it hurts me on an emotional level. I want to hear a demo of this song with just the real instruments. I theorize it either sounds super empty without the extra stuff,
or it sounds incredibly country as all get out and Jack just wanted to be weirder than that. I’ve listened to this track several times more than any other song, even “Ice Station Zebra” and I just have to ask, where the hell, did this song come from!? I need help.
The last song on this album is “Humoresque” the only song written by a person who is not Jack White on this album. Can anyone care to guess? I guarantee you won’t guess who on the first try without already knowing who it is. IT’s AL CAPONE. Chicago mobster Al Capone is on this album. In June of 2017 the song went up to auction and leave it to Jack White to reveal he was the one to buy it. The song is incredibly pure and colorful and shows just how much music has changed since this song was written. The piece is the only song on the album to not have an electronic instrument on it for some reason. I assume it’s out of respect for the composition, but as far as I’m concerned this album proves Jack White and I will never be on the same wave length.
This album is weird, but in a good way. I’d recommend it to all those special snowflakes that like to say music is so boring now a days. But at the same time I don’t think they would like it because it’s not the kind of music that scares people or good hop topic material. But I would retract that comment as I think “Boarding House Reach” is a perfect horror album. This album has shoved out every emotion out of me and now I know what true psychological horror is as I feel like I watched Jack White slowly unravel throughout this whole album. “Boarding House Reach” is like watching a mad scientist perform ever increasing feats of madness. Some of them you watch with amazement, at the same time you can see the madness and horror seeping out of every twisted grin on Jack White’s face and then you get “What’s Done is Done.”