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CD of The Week

Week of 4/11/22

    Jack White - Fear of the Dawn (Third Man)

    The last new music we heard from Jack White was in 2019 when he and his buddies in The Raconteurs got back together to give us their catchy mix of garage rock and twangy strumming. But before that was Jack’s third solo album, Boarding House Reach, which arrived to mixed reviews as he stretched out jams in all directions with few actual songs and hooks to tether them to.

    After taking the first pandemic year off from music, White delved into his songwriting so much that he ended up with enough new tunes for two records. The first, Fear of the Dawn, is a loud out-and-out rocker that pulls the Boarding House Reach jams in tighter, wrapped in countless guitar strings.

    Opener and lead single “Taking Me Back,” which surprisingly debuted as part of a video game commercial last year, is the most out-and-out straight-up rock song here. White piles on the guitar riffing and effects pedals all over Fear of the Dawn, with wild guitar freak-outs on the title track, “The White Raven” and “What’s the Trick?” among others.

    Fear of the Dawn gives us both “Esophobia” and “Esophobia (Reprise),” but “esophobia” translates to “fear of the dawn,” so we’re really revisiting this theme three times over (appropriate for the man who has made the number a motif throughout his career). All three songs find White truly at home in the dark and scared of the sun coming up on whatever he’s been doing, and while this could be a metaphor for just about anything, it’s clearly been weighing on his mind.

    However, Fear of the Dawn has two of the strangest tracks White has ever released, and it’s not like The White Stripes don’t have plenty of oddball songs in their catalog. “Hi-De-Ho” interpolates the classic chorus of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher” and mashes it up with Q-Tip rapping about Jive Records and famous black entertainers (including superstar 76er Joel Embiid). Then the buzzy, out-there “Into the Twilight” includes samples of William S. Burroughs, Manhattan Transfer and Bobby McFerrin somehow.

    Over his solo career, Jack's guitar sounds have gotten more experimental, going from his original basic blues rock and classic soloing to an array of layers of sounds, production and effects, falling into a proggy rabbit hole more than once. There’s also plenty of that “whoowwww!” yelp/guitar lick he’s relied on over the past decade…you know it when you hear it.

    In the end, Fear of the Dawn is low on hooks but high on energy. Once you get past the initial WTF of it all, the record’s overall vibe does grow on you. But if you’re burned out on piled-on and cranked-up guitar riffage by the end, don’t worry, White promises that July’s Entering Heaven Alive will be mellower. But with his terror at the thought of the sunlight, what might the rays of heaven bring him?
    Review by Joey O.

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