- - Monday, April 23, 2012

Blunderbuss

Jack White

Third Man Records

★★★½

After jumping from band to band over the past 15 years, Jack White gives the collaborative spirit a rest with “Blunderbuss,” the first genuine solo album of his career.

Before we go any further, though, let’s address the obvious. “Blunderbuss,” technically the name for a 17th-century firearm that morphed into the modern-day shotgun, is a terrible title. Mr. White is the kind of guy who pays attention to details, who once made sure every White Stripes album had a color scheme as well as a solid track list, and he should know better.

By the time “Blunderbuss” wraps up its 40-minute roller-coaster ride of thrills and hooks, though, it doesn’t really matter what the thing is called. Mr. White spends the album bouncing between throwback genres, recalling the lo-fi guitar heroics of the White Stripes one minute and the unchained rock ‘n’ roll grind of the Dead Weather the next. This semirecycled material is pretty great, but the album hits its true stride whenever Mr. White goes off the map, proving there’s more thrill to charting new territory than to revisiting old terrain.

Mr. White lives in Nashville, Tenn., now, and the city’s twangy influence rears its head repeatedly, from the pedal steel guitars that kick off the album’s title track to the occasional swoop of a rustic violin. There’s even a little midcentury country music thrown into the mix, a holdover from Mr. White’s days producing albums for Wanda Jackson and Loretta Lynn. For those who aren’t willing to follow him down the vintage country rabbit hole, though, he also dabbles in folk, soul, brainy prog-rock, vaudevillian piano jazz and even a few neoclassical anthems.

“Blunderbuss” never stays in one place for long, but it’s not a scattershot album as much as a diverse, curated collection of all the musical ideas that shoot through Mr. White’s mind. He sings the way he always has - excitably and nasally, with a voice that relies as much on swagger as technical skill - and he plays guitar with a bluesy, muscular style that recalls the White Stripes’ fretwork. The album also makes a point of showcasing Mr. White’s ability to write complex songs, though, a skill he either has just developed or has kept under wraps in his other projects.

The guy has never presented himself in this kind of light, and “Blunderbuss” shines brighter than anything he’s done in years.

Speak in Code

Eve 6

Fearless Records

★★½

Eve 6’s three members were barely 20 when “Inside Out,” the first single from their debut album, topped the rock charts in late 1998. The band rode a brief wave of success for the next three years, landing an additional hit with the prom anthem “Here’s to the Night” before spending most of the 2000s as washed-up, forgotten stars.

“Speak in Code” finds the original lineup reuniting for the first time in a decade. The band’s old sound - a mix of alt-rock crunch and marketable pop polish - is back, resulting in a handful of bright, summery anthems that might have blanketed the airwaves around the turn of the 21st century. The question is, does Eve 6’s return really matter in 2012?

Perhaps. Songs such as “Lost & Found” and “Situation Infatuation” are aimed at the punky 20-somethings who still attend Warped Tour shows, and “Moon” - with its double-tracked acoustic guitars and nostalgic lyrics - begs the listener to hoist up a lighter.

Only a few of these songs feel modern, but that’s not really the point, is it? For those who wish Eve 6 had never lost their mojo, “Speak in Code” is a nice trip down memory lane.

Brendan Benson

What Kind of World

Readymade Records

While Jack White releases his first solo album this week, fellow Raconteur band mate Brendan Benson releases his fifth.

“What Kind of World” is built upon Mr. Benson’s love of retro pop/rock, with songs that reference everything from the Beatles to ELO. The grounding element is Mr. Benson’s voice, a well-worn baritone that’s just as timeless as his influences.

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