Jack White returns more bombastic than ever with his third solo album, “Boarding House Reach,” which dropped March 23. The album is a follow up to “Lazaretto,” released in 2014.
The record opens up with the bouncing synthesizers and booming keyboards of the leading single, “Connected by Love,” which introduces listeners to heartbreak and the desire for reconciliation. This track contains arguably the most insightful lyrics on the album — “Help me forget/Let’s put it all to bed.” The strange, bluesy nostalgia that’s a motif for the remaining 39 minutes of the album explores a new facet of White’s music fans haven’t prominently heard before.
Replacing the heavy guitars with softer basslines, the third track, “Why Walk A Dog?” clears the path for “Corporation,” which combines both R&B and classic rock elements. “Corporation” resembles the style of White’s early days as part of the duo The White Stripes — unexpected but nevertheless appreciated. There’s undeniable influence from 1970’s rock and early 20th century blues.
Similarly chronological to “Lazaretto,” “Boarding House Reach” takes off explosively for the first nine tracks, then mellows off significantly. The transformation begins with “Ezmeralda Steals the Show” and ends with “Humoresque,” a crooning lullaby with vocals reminiscent of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. Emitting one of the most refreshing sounds on the record, White’s signature riffs and bellowing vocals drive “Over and Over and Over,” the album’s third single. This is one track, alongside “Corporation,” that fans may replay more than once for the sake of pleasure.
Taking risks, such as the strange rapping on “Ice Station Zebra,” is characteristic of great musicians and is absolutely necessary to stray apart from old roots and the stamp of a genre. White’s style, the stadium-worthy anthems and responsible for the revival of garage rock into the 2000s, has been solidified since his days in The White Stripes. White’s reputation is mostly in one piece and the iconic instrumentals and diction seep through his current work. However, “Boarding House Reach” can’t help but evoke a pang of nostalgia. White was close to bringing back the glory of his earliest eras, but ultimately created a record that’ll be remembered as a bullet that barely missed the target.
“Boarding House Reach” lacks balance between the lyrics and the melodies — not that bad through earphones but painful to read on a printed page. There’s an impression White might have lost pleasure in his songwriting. Thankfully, White had already built a loyal fan base that’ll follow him until the end of his career, but this album will have a difficult time grabbing the attention of the newer generation, one which wasn’t around during the White Stripes golden era, with records such as “Elephant” (2003), “De Stijl” (2000) and “White Blood Cells” (2001).