Jack White Ranked from Good to Better
I didn’t want to use the clichéd title of “Best to Worst.” Truth is I may be a little too biased to be writing this article because as an avid listener and fan I don’t believe Jack White the performer is capable of procuring a bad album. In his time with the White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather, and with his newly released solo-album Blunderbuss the guitarist, singer/songwriter, pianist, and drummer has covered blues, country, metal and punk with more than one unmatchable approach. His unique take on classic genres has him establishing himself into modern rock legend as we speak. So I figured it was about time to rank his albums as a member of his three bands and as a solo artist. Not counting his time on the Danger Mouse produced Rome or the live albums Under Great White Northern Lights and Under Blackpool Lights by the White Stripes, Jack’s musical apparatus reaches 11 albums total. Such a delightful number if you ask me. Why not just rank the top 10 and make the odd man out an honorable mention? Because this list goes to 11! Enjoy.
11) The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards (2010)
Summary: With their sophomore effort it’s like every member of the super group were routinely punched in the face before recording. What we get is a thunderstorm of pissed off tracks and the end result is a rewarding mix of over the top blues and fuzz rock experimentation.
Key Track(s): “Blue Blood Blues”, “Die by the Drop”, “No Horse”
10) The White Stripes – The White Stripes (1999)
Summary: The first thing we ever heard from our subject was equal parts minimal and bold. His Do-it-yourself approach and 8-track recording sessions left us with a punk, garage, blues, and country-based album that sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom. Or a bathroom. Whichever one you consider more intimate.
Key Track(s): “Stop Breaking Down”, “Suzy Lee”, “Do”, “Screwdriver”, “I Fought Piranhas”
9) The Dead Weather – Horehound (2009)
Summary: The Dead Weather’s debut is a smoky blend of menacing guitar riffs, thickly-layered drum beats, saucy blues vocals, and distorted keyboards. Jack’s role in the band saw him as the primary drummer and co-lead songwriter. It was a departure from what we had previously heard in The White Stripes and first super group The Raconteurs. However he delivers in a positive way. His bandmates added to his Icky Thump with a sexy blues based sound. Is it weird to call records sexy? If nothing else, at least the lead singer is a girl so I can’t be completely weird.
Key Track(s): “60 Feet Tall”, “So Far From Your Weapon”, “Will There be Enough Water?”, “Bone House”
8) The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers (2006)
Summary: In his first departure from the Stripes that are white Jack gets together with some close friends for another simple and blissful album. Much more toned down than their sophomore effort of Consolers of the Lonely it was almost as if White took 33 minutes just to introduce his partners in crime before leading into the aforementioned full-blown classic. We’ll have more on that later though.
Key Track(s): “Steady as she Goes”, “Blue Veins”, “Yellow Sun”, “Store Bought Bones”
7) The White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001)
Summary: In their commercial breakthrough The White Stripes abandoned their methodical D.I.Y. approach for a quicker and more energized production. Recorded in four days, drummer Meg White told a Detroit Free Press reporter she thought the songs were “too new”. The lack of practice isn’t a setback and it gives the record an improvised feel. Getting sick on shitty rock n’ roll? It’s lucky for you White Blood Cells exists and can help you on your path to immunity.
Key Track(s): “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”, “Expecting”, “Fell in Love with a Girl”, “Hotel Yorba”
6) The White Stripes – Get Behind me Satan (2005)
Summary: Following up on their critically-acclaimed classic Elephant seemed a tall order in 2005 when it was announced the White Stripes were back for their 5th studio album. While their foundation was still prevalent they delivered on expectations while experimenting with more instruments. I feel that’s a two home-run game. To continue on a precedent set by a landmark album while trying a new sound and delivering on expectations is almost unheard of. Jack does it here.
Key Track(s): “Blue Orchid”, “My Doorbell”, “The Denial Twist”, “Instinct Blues”, “Take, Take, Take”
5) The White Stripes – Icky Thump (2007)
Summary: The last album the band released before breaking up Icky Thump marks the culmination of one of the most delightfully original and weird bands that ever existed. Jack tops off the stripes’ tenure with a noisy, distorted, and sometimes political record. Who’d a thunk sittin’ drunk on a wagon to Mexico that this would be the way modern legends would go end their time together? Who knows? All I know is that I wanted to use that line from the title track and also that it doesn’t matter. Jack and Meg are shoe-ins for the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. This record takes nothing away from and adds a lot to that.
Key Track(s): “Icky Thump”, “Rag and Bone”, “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just do as You’re Told)”, “Catch Hell Blues”, “300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues”
4. The White Stripes – De Stijl (2000)
Summary: De Stijl expands on the debut The White Stripes with a more productive, more quotable, and largely fun straight blues/country record. This is the lightest of the stripes albums and is a cult favorite for its seamless fusion of multiple genres within rock music and the fact that it was released before their fame rose. I’m partial to the blues so this may be higher on my list than others. It would be mockery to name a record “De Stijl” (English translation: The Style) without being immensely stylish. While those clothes may not be doing much for Jack here, his music has a pretty fashionable voice.
Key Track(s): “Hello Operator”, “Death Letter”, “Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise”, “Little Bird”, “Why Can’t you be Nicer to Me?”
3) The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely (2008)
Summary: This record is nothing but a string of explosive homages to the golden age of rock and roll. Jack White joined the Raconteurs for a 2nd effort after Icky Thump and what was released was a beautiful dialogue between White and co-lead singer Brendan Benson over the Who-like drum beats and Zeppelin-riffs. As an album it doesn’t string together well and is unbalanced in its pacing. However, each song as a stand-alone is absolutely incredible and showcases just how talented this group of friends/colleagues/musicians could really be. Once you listen there’s no way it’s coming out of your record player for a while. Let it console your loneliness if you’re experiencing that.
Key Track(s): “Consoler of the Lonely”, “You Don’t Understand Me”, “Top Yourself”, “Old Enough”, “Rich Kid Blues”, “Carolina Drama”
2) The White Stripes – Elephant (2003)
Summary: The album cover says it all. The most emotional, personal, and deep White Stripes record was also the most brilliant. As a concept album, Jack and Meg explored themes of their own broken relationship as lovers and the shattering aftermath. If it ever got more intimate than this in music I have yet to hear it. A previously married couple turned into partners as working musicians touching on their own struggles as lovers with infidelity, distrust, and financial struggle? Now that’s intense. I could go on and on about the real-life symbolism of this record but then this article would never end now would it? When you listen, listen well. Analyze what you will and appreciate what you don’t find too profound. This album is a rock classic, good for academia and relaxing background noise.
Key Track(s): “Seven Nation Army”, “Black Math”, “Ball and Biscuit”, “The Air Beneath my Fingers”, “Girl, you Have no Faith in Medicine”
1) Jack White – Blunderbuss (2012)
Summary: Dare I say this is the greatest thing he’s ever done? After 8 years of listening repeatedly to his previous works in the three bands mentioned heavily we got his first effort of his own creativity entirely last month. Perhaps that was just what I needed Jack. Not Rita Hayworth. These subtle references are getting out of hand. How many can you spot in this article? I digress.
But you guys get the point. I would never say that Jack was “bogged down” by others creativity in past efforts. However I will say that in The White Stripes one can only go so far with repeatedly metronomic drum beats. Jack made legendary out of Meg’s simpleton style there. With the Raconteurs he shared singing and lead-guitar duties with his good friend Brendan Benson as to showcase his talent. Jack still helped to create the legendary there by being subdued at times but explosive when the time came. With the Dead Weather, the ultimate super group, we get wildly experimental garage & blues-rock. But he is the drummer, so while most of the writing duties in the band are shared lyrically and aesthetically, Jack’s voice isn’t heard as much. However he is still helping to create the legendary there.
In Blunderbuss Jack White is no longer helping to become legendary or elevating others to legendary status. He’s simply reached legendary status. Allow me one (or two) more lyrical references to our subject. How You Gonna Top Yourself Jack? I’d say as long as you do what you damn well please, with a smile on your face, you got the Freedom in the 21st century to do whatever you want. Or just release another Raconteurs album.
Key Track(s): “Missing Pieces”, “Freedom at 21”, “Love Interruption”, “Sixteen Saltines”, “Hip, Eponymous (Poor Boy)”, “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep”, “B lunderbuss”
Writer’s Note: If you guys want me to review an artist’s discography send in your suggestions! If it’s someone I already know and love I will get an article out quickly, if it’s someone I haven’t heard before or aren’t too familiar with I will do them due diligence, listen immensely, and form an opinion thereof. Thanks for reading once again!