Given that the singles chart is currently topped by the bubblegum pop of Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Bieber’s attempt at impersonating Justin Timberlake (even The Black Keys’ latest album sounded a tad more polished) it will be interesting to see whether Blunderbuss can match the critical acclaim it has already received with commercial success. After all, White’s music has always been a little…messy. Yet whilst some of the vocal duets veer towards being slightly painful to listen to, it’s this unbounded aspect that gives the album its raw joy.
And boy, White is certainly having fun. Away from the self–imposed constraints of his previous musical projects, he skips between genres with free abandon. The heavy guitar riffs and idiosyncratic screeching solos we’re used to are still in attendance, notably on the stomping ‘Sixteen Saltines’, yet Blunderbuss is dominated by a new keyboard sound, with organ riffs, honky-tonk piano and solos which alternate between jazz on ‘Missing Pieces’ and flamboyantly rock-operatic on ‘Weep Themselves To Sleep’.
Blunderbuss was written following White’s divorce from Karen Elson, thus making it easy to read it as a break-up album. Indeed, the sadomasochistic lyrics on ‘Love Interruption’ about wanting love to ‘Stick a knife inside me’ certainly sound bitter, but given that the couple announced their split with invites to a party to celebrate ‘their upcoming divorce with a positive swing bang hum dinger’, the songs with Elson’s backing vocals seem less Libertines-esque musical brawls and more ironic fun at playing wronged lovers.
The rambunctiously fantastic cover of Rudolph Troombs’ ‘I’m Shakin’’ is a highlight of the album, after which it mellows down into more stripped-back blues. But if we hadn’t already realised White’s cross-genre skills, the album’s final track serves as a tongue-in-cheek reminder, with its faux-ending breaking into a righteous climax.