“Boarding House Reach” is a daring unorthodox escapade for the already unorthodox modern rocker Jack White.
This third solo album is a creative departure from his previous solo work, and his work with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather.
Each project has helped define White as a rocker capable of honky-tonk piano ditties and electric anthems.
“Boarding House Reach” abandons this signature in an effort to take on an experimental sound that most will find, well, a bit weird.
Moments on “Boarding House Reach” range from uncomfortable to all-out painful. “Why Walk a Dog,” for instance, is a painful two-and-a-half-minute statement against pet ownership that make you wish White was pulling your leg. A political statement against pet ownership, sure, I can deal with it. But White’s delivery feels out of place.
On “Everything You’ve Ever Learned,” it feels more as though Jack White is having fun making music, comfortable to have creative freedom, messing around with funk, rock and hip-hop elements. But unfortunately, listening to the album is far less fun.
“Corporation” has the potential to rouse a crowd in a live setting, but the recorded version simply doesn’t function with the act.
About halfway through the record, just when I had almost given up hope, an octave-fuzz guitar riff and a spastic rhythm pay homage to White’s previous material with The White Stripes. As the album’s refreshing high point, this song, “Over and Over and Over,” reminds the listener why they came along for this crazy ride in the first place.
As a Jack White fan from the beginning, I had high expectations for the record and was disappointed. Since its release, I’ve approached it several times with different perspectives, trying to make sense of what White is doing.
It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one. Reviews have been mixed. Some are baffled while others applaud White for taking risks and abandoning his conventional album approach. White himself has stated that this album would be his “experimental” album.
While artists should continue to push the boundaries and reshape the sonic landscape of musical traditions, there have been more failures than successes. Few bands have been able to do a 180 on their sound and do it well. The artists who succeed have changed music forever, and incited revolutions. Unfortunately, this album will not join the revolutionary works of Kid As and Sergeant Peppers. Instead, the album feels empty of the conviction that defined White’s earlier work.