Albums Of The Week

Experimental record to reach for

The manic fervour of American singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jack White (above) is evident in Boarding House Reach, the year's most exhilarating rock album to date.
The manic fervour of American singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jack White (above) is evident in Boarding House Reach, the year's most exhilarating rock album to date.PHOTO: THIRD MAN RECORDS

Multi-hyphenate Jack White successfully crosses a dizzying array of genres and time periods on his third solo album

ROCK/FUNK

BOARDING HOUSE REACH

Jack White

Third Man/ Columbia/XL

5 stars

American singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jack White has always been known as the rock maverick whose former duo, The White Stripes, brought excitement back to rock 'n' roll by scaling the genre back to its raw, bluesy roots.

And while the 12-time Grammy winner's many other outfits such as The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather have tapped rock's visceral energy, his latest and third solo album sees him taking an experimental route, crossing into a dizzying array of genres.

Messy as it sounds on paper, it works. Boarding House Reach is the year's most exhilarating rock album to date, one that dares to reach out and assimilate genres as diverse as funk, R&B, classical and hip-hop, topped off with copious amounts of White's manic fervour.

While The White Stripes conquered stadiums and pop charts with a minimalist set-up of White on guitars/vocals and Meg White (not related to Jack) on drums, the new album sees him work with no fewer than 24 session musicians and singers, many of who also play for artists as varied as R&B queen Beyonce, synthpop icons Depeche Mode and jazz-rock veteran John Scofield.

Those clamouring for White's trademark rock blowouts will be satisfied with Over And Over And Over, a life-affirming jam that blends Led Zeppelin guitar riffs, bouncy drums and hair-raising gospel backing vocals.

The manic fervour of American singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jack White (above) is evident in Boarding House Reach, the year's most exhilarating rock album to date.

The rest of the album is even more eclectic.

Hypermisophoniac, a play on the word that means "hatred of sound", is anchored by jarring synths and samples of noises made by his son's toys while he laments on the Superman-like tragedy of being "the only one that can hear all the sounds in the world".

There is a lot of emphasis on groove and rhythms on the album.

Corporation and Get In The Mind Shaft, for example, propel forward with the science-fiction funk popularised by George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic, while Respect Commander sees White go bonkers with wildly changing time signatures.

The Detroit-born, Nashville-based artist's past forays into country music gets a revisit with What's Done Is Done, a dark duet with New Orleans singer Esther Rose.

His eccentricities come to the fore on Humoresque.He put in a successful bid for a musical piece written by legendary mobster Al Capone and used it in the song, which has a melody composed by Czech classical composer Antonin Dvorak.

Rock purists might rankle, but White actually raps on Ice Station Zebra, named after the 1968 espionage film.

It is not the only standout element on the track, a dizzy concoction that melds machine-gun drums straight out of late 1980s Metallica, boogie-woogie pianos from the 1920s and funky, Stevie Wonder-style clavinet riffs from the 1970s.

It is a heady trip, but well worth the ride.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2018, with the headline 'Experimental record to reach for'. Print Edition | Subscribe