But what happened to the former leader of the White Stripes? What his new solo album, crazy and furious Fear of the Dawn, is it the name? What happened so that the king of the garage, holding so far of a certain rock classicism, has fun throwing all the dogma upside down, blurring all the lines so furiously?
He, the lover of vinyl records, the purist of vintage analog equipment, he who has never had a mobile phone, would he have decided to enter modernity by advancing the cursor to the future of rock? That’s what we wonder when listening to this boosted disc with which Jack White rubs his guitar with rap, dub and especially synthesizers and samples. We don’t know if it’s the future of rock but it’s in any case a great kick in the buttocks and eardrums that never slows down the pace.
His last solo album, Boarding House Reach (2018), did not leave an unforgettable memory. Unconvincing, he was already deploying this appetite for experimentation, blasting the boundaries between rock, hip-hop, jazz and electronics on titles like Respect Order Where Ice Station Zebrawhich saw him even dare to rap for the first time.
On Fear of the Dawn, Jack White shifts into high gear and lets go of the horses. We imagine him alone in his studio, eyes bulging, having fun like a teenager, sampling his guitar, turning the buttons of the synths in all directions, tasting each sound with joy, as if it were the first time. With the mission of making as much noise as possible. This 12 tracks in “high energy” mode can very quickly exhaust you, better be in good shape to tackle it the first time, you have been warned.
After the first three rock titles foot to the floor on which Jack White holds all the instruments, including the theremin, the synthesizers and the percussions, we enter the heart of the matter, hang your seatbelts, with Hi De Ho, a shambles that notably grafts a sample of Cab Calloway to electronic bleeps, a rock guitar riff, and a rap from his friend Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest (whose voice is unrecognizable). Against all odds, it works.
Eosophobiathe maddening dub haunted by jerky riffs and shrill cries that follows it is another craziness to knock you on your feet, before the disc’s indescribable pinnacle, Into The Twilight. With its retro choirs mixed with a dry and groovy drums à la Prince & The Revolution, a rowdy sample from William S. Burroughs and another from Manhattan Transfer, not to mention the bass of his 15-year-old daughter Scarlett, it is about an almost hilarious chaotic and prankster telescoping. We may find it abominable and monstrous, but the building stands up and it’s a challenge.
As What’s The Trick on which Jack White belches an insane proto-rap, accompanied by cow bells (those heard at Run DMC and LCD Soundsystem) and a big final nod to Daft Punk, which leaves us with a choking jaw. We will still remember Morning, Noon and Nighta wiser track that looks more like him, on which we hear the first guitar solo of a third party on one of his albums, that of Duane Denison from The Jesus Lizard, who came to jam one day in his studio.
A rare interview given to the British newspaper Mojo offers a beginning of explanation. Of course, the Detroit native always wants to avoid repetition, to explore things he’s never done (never mind that they’ve been done by others before, he points out). But above all, we learn that Jack White, 46, has decided to radically change his lifestyle since 2020, banishing sugar from his diet and starting advanced fasts with morning greetings to the sun, in order, he says, to regain health. energy, one of his new obsessions. It was “unot reborn”, shown by her new blue hair, and “an electrifying experience“, according to him. Hence this impression that he has put his fingers in the socket. Literally. He has also been so productive that he will not release one, but two albums this year, the second, Entering Heaven, more peaceful and blues, being announced for July 22.
With Fear of the Dawn, Jack White takes the risk of surprising and displeasing. We can find this album unlistenable and totally vain. We bet it will become cult. If only because it tries to erase the word impossible from the musical vocabulary and announces the madness that comes, wherever it comes from, it deserves to be saluted.
Fear of the Dawn by Jack White (Third Man Records) out April 8
Jack White will be in concert in France this summer: July 7 in Lyon, July 12 in Carcassonne, July 18-19 and 20 in Paris (Olympia).