By Erika Lade

Jack White is such an aesthete that I dressed up to write this article. It felt wrong not to. That’s because half of what White does is brilliant music and the other half is called having an aesthetic and being serious about it. Good rock music is what he makes. And by good rock music, I mean that which makes you want to not buy corporate, not check your email and maybe approach a stranger in the goddamn street, shove them in a bathroom in a bar and get dirty. It makes you jealous.

You know Jack White--that mixture of a man that is Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands, your friend that’s an architect and alter boy slash ranchhand all mashed up into one human with midnight-colored hair, his torso wrapped in a beautiful thick polyester powder blue vintage vest. Perhaps most well-known for his work in a band called The White Stripes, White’s later-period projects have emerged to quite a bit of revlery, and perhaps because of, the disbanding of his sister-wife marriage and band he was in with Meg White. So, let us be perfectly honest here: Jack White was The White Stripes and Meg was the mysterious accessory that peeked our imaginations. And they were awesome, but it was all Jack. Everything Jack does is part beautiful music and part just beauty. He has moved on from camp to class.

If Kant had been a rockstar, he would have been like Jack White, setting up a bigger system under which understanding could flow. Jack White needs certain categories and modes of order beneath which he is able to continue what is distinctly American music, as savory as chicken pot pie. (I am sorry, but) In a generation of 20 and 30 year olds that slumpingly drone forward without a thought longer than 140 characters, Jack White is superbly fascinating, because he cares about truly carving out an idea of beauty and truth and making music within its boundaries.

It would maybe be enough that he is possibly the most talented guitarist in a generation, but if you pay any attention, there is so much more than meets the ear: his first solo record abounds with themes of loss, pettiness and the human penchant for being an asshole. But it is his use of language and lore and his staunch unwavering devotion to the aesthetic gesture (sometimes color, sometimes that which harkens back to the American south, sometimes Detroit rock city) that make one provoked to actually think, rather than just, you know, rock out.

In the end, this new album is really a record about possession and clipped wings. Mostly how love possesses and let’s go of us: Our powerlessness against possession when it comes to love. Like a gaping pit, we fall in only to be sometimes violently catapulted out. Sometimes someone controls everything about you / And when they tell you that they just can't live without you / They ain't lyin', they'll take pieces of you /And they'll stand above you and walk away / That's right and take a part of you with them.

White is intensely personal on his first solo attempt here, leaving me to question why everyone has regarded him as shrouded in uber-mystique. If anything, his soul seems on blatant, bare exhibit with Blunderbuss. His songs are reminiscent of Francis Bacon paintings: open arms, odd parts bleeding confusingly on the floor, lots of red, white and black of course. White, notorious for his devotion to the number 3 and the colors red, white and black, has introduced a powder blue into his limited rainbow. Powder blue, often the signifying arrival of a newborn boy. White is reborn as a solo artist (yeah yeah yeah), but he’s also saying something more with this color and these riffs. He has become pretty staunchly anti-woman and a major skeptic of that which comes easily, that which devours and sucks you in, that which entices, but ultimately poisons us.

Superficial questions of the past (Is Meg his wife or sister?) seem to give away to serious admissions about his dealings with women and how he just thinks they need to kind of back the fuck off. or how he needs to stop “drinking their perfume”: I want love to / Walk right up and bight me / Grab ahold of me and fight me / Leave me dying on the ground. This Blunderbuss (whose true meaning is a muzzle-loading firearm) is actually the fuckshow that is relationships when they fall apart on us, time and time again. White has lost his band, he has lost both of his wives and this record is his dip into nihilism, albeit really well played, brilliantly bluesy, southern rock nihilism.

Above all, these songs, which he says were compiled over a number of years, come together to pass the feeling that old Jack’s been burned in the pit of love. His consistent stance against women ruling the world is pretty palpable (and he makes it even somewhat palatable), seen probably most clearly in the song “Freedom at 21”: That's right and / She don't care what kind of wounds she's inflicted on me / She don't care what color bruises that she's leavin' on me / 'Cuz she's got freedom in the 21st century. His staunch stance on gender comes through on his declaration of monogamy as “not for him”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHx1FR7Cm5w

These days, he brings with him on tour two bands that can play all of his songs: one is all-female and one is all-male. White claims the interjection of even one female into the all-male band changes the dynamic entirely. He prefers to wake up in the morning, choose which band is going to play with him over breakfast and keep everyone on their toes, especially him.

He seems fearfully allergic to boredom, but I really think he is just kind of afraid of how much women have the ability to suck him in and spit him out time and time again. The thing is, Jack, how is it an all-female band when you yourself are playing in it? Jack, us ladies, we got you shakin’. Yeah, we got you nervous: A storm rocks a ship on a sea (A storm rocks a ship on a sea) / The wind shakes the leaves on a tree (The wind shakes the leaves on a tree) / And I'm a nervous wreck and I'm all shook up / And that's what you're doin' to me right now / And I'm jumpin' / That's right, you got me shakin'.