There is little that Jack White seems to do without meaning. Lazaretto, his latest album, is layered with intricate instrumentals and passionate lyrics that speak volumes from his personal experiences to broad views of humanity and society. Musically, Lazaretto seems to draw from western genres that paint images of saloons and big-sky country. He began dabbling with this style in Blunderbuss, but it takes a more prominent role in this recording. However, White stays true to his psychedelic blues-rock roots despite the complexities of this album.
“Three Women” opens Lazaretto with a gospel-inspired blues-rock tune. This sound carries into tracks such as “Would You Fight for My Love.” Both of these songs send cautionary messages about being hurt by women.
The album’s title track is a high-energy injection of what White says is a reflection of the “braggadocio of some hip-hop lyrics.” However, the character in the song actually accomplished the things he’s bragging about. White’s signature bass-heavy guitar dominates the song, but it eventually leads to twirling bluegrass with fiddle and theremin. In other songs, such as “I Think I Found the Culprit,” the theremin is used for a more ghostly feel along with eerie vocals.
Western and bluegrass styles seep into other tracks, including “Temporary Ground” and “Entitlement” as piano, fiddle and mandolin take the stage. In “Entitlement,” he sings, “If we can’t be happy, then you can’t be too,” that “children are lied to,” and that people act like Caesar without being checked.
Despite western inspirations, White didn’t forget that his fans still love gritty, psychedelic blues rock. The instrumental track “High Ball Stepper” sends a much-needed shock to the ears. The sound turns to a downbeat funky mix in “That Black Bat Licorice.” In this track, White sings about “losing the part of your brain that has opinions,” and uses spitting out licorice as a metaphor for spewing meaningless words.
Jack White continues to captivate audiences with his audacity and creative genius. With Lazaretto, he delves deeper into complex layers of sound created by interesting instruments, recording techniques, musical styles and storytelling. He has reached uncharted waters with this album.