Jack White: Boarding House Reach Album Review

On his 3rd solo album, Jack White seems to have finally capitalizes on the unique sound he teases on previous albums.

Boarding House Reach album cover
Source: Third Man Records

Up to this point, I’ve thought Jack White’s solo career has been mediocre at best. Growing up as a fan of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather, I loved Jack White’s quirky and eccentric brand of bluesy garage rock. When he chose to go for a more acoustic folk sound on Blunderbuss, I thought the album was mediocre. His second album, Lazaretto, was about the same; but tracks like “Lazaretto”, “High Ball Stepper”, and “That Black Bat Licorice” had something special. Luckily, Jack White seems to have thought so too.

The stretch of songs from “Corporation” down to “Respect Commander” is just mind blowingly awesome.
Source: Third Man Records

The funk grooves, coupled with off-the-wall musical composition and quirky musical motifs, make these tracks some of the most fun songs Jack White has ever written. The short glitchy riffs and licks sprinkled over a simple funk groove on “Corporation” make it the most fun song on the album. Jack White perfectly arranges weird and otherwise annoying sounds into a very groovy, glitchy blues rock track in “Hypermisphoniac”. He then tries his hand at rapping over a funky instrumental track in “Ice Station Zebra”; a song about breaking free of labels (much like the album as a whole).

“Over and Over and Over” throws back to the earlier Jack White garage rock sound, but with over-the-top opera-esque harmonizing vocals on the hook. “Everything You’ve Ever Learned” reminds me of Pink Floyd’s frantic “One of These Days”, but with a monologue about desire and action. “Respect Commander” is half spy thriller, half feminist anthem, with some of the best guitar playing Jack White has performed on record in a long time.

As awesome as the middle tracks are, this album is not without problems.

The album doesn’t really seem to take off until “Corporation”. “Connected By Love” ends with an excitingly bombastic buildup, but its immediately followed by the slow and boring “Why Walk a Dog”. While it’s themes of criticizing the social construct of using animals as pets is interesting, the track’s instrumentals do little to capture my interest. “Get In the Mind Shaft” suffers from the same problem, but with the added detriment of feeling like it overstays it’s welcome at 4 minutes long. “What’s Done is Done” is just the same bland country-gospel-folk song that Jack White has been releasing previously, re-branded with an 808 beat.

“Humoresque”, the infamous Al Capone song Jack White bought in an auction, should be an example of how Jack White can break his bland folk mold. Although this is a cover, the decision to strip down the band and emphasize the vocal melody gives this a very haunting sound; which separates this from his other folk entries.

This is by far Jack White’s best solo record.
Jack White playing guitar
Source: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

When I first heard this album was coming out, I thought it was going to be another bland folk album. When he released “Respect Commander” a few months ago, I thought it would be the one exciting single he has in all his solo records. I’m glad I was wrong. While this album isn’t perfect, it’s definitely a giant step in the right direction for Jack White. I loved his music for its uniquely raw, frantic, and experimentally quirky sounds; and it’s good to see him bring back that sound, even for a stretch of tracks on the album. Hopefully he continues with this trend on his next project.

Score: 8/10

Best Tracks: “Corporation” , “Hypermisophoniac”, “Ice Station Zebra”, “Over and Over and Over”, “Everything You’ve Ever Learned”, “Respect Commander”, and “Humoresque”

Worst Tracks: “Why Walk a Dog”, “Get In the Mind Shaft”, and “What’s Done is Done”

Mason Cheng

Music Intern

I like music. Sometimes I write about it.

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