Album cover for "Lazaretto"

Album cover for “Lazaretto”

There’s something that tends to happen to rock musicians as they get older: their songs get softer, the ballads come out, and it seems like they just lose some energy. This is clearly not the case for Jack White, evidenced in the release of his newest album, Lazaretto.

Long-time fans of Jack White’s various bands – The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather – were probably left sighing after White released his solo debut Blunderbuss in 2012, thinking the same fate was befalling him.

It’s not that it was a bad album at all, but it was noticeably tamer than White’s earlier work.  Lazaretto, on the other hand, completely dispels any fears that White might be “getting old.”

The album’s lyrical content was written after White found a bunch of poems and stories he had written when he was nineteen.  He re-examined these writings, extracted what he felt was worthwhile, and added twenty years’ worth of perspective, in effect collaborating with his teenage self.

The result is a combination of youthful angst and adult experience, which in some cases makes for an even more jaded outlook.  Lazaretto’s songs deal with love, relationships, existential confusion, God, exile, entitlement, and alienation.  It’s also eclectic in its range of styles and influences.

White draws from a variety of genres beyond the familiar rock n’ roll and punk, including Appalachian folk music, old-school country western, his signature blues, and even hip hop.

What you get is a record featuring alt-rock that has lyrics spit with more attitude than any rapper on the radio (“Lazaretto”), contemplative, floating, folk harmony (“Temporary Ground”), a psychotic garage instrumental (“High Ball Stepper”), and lighthearted honky-tonk jamming (“Just One Drink”), along with seven other unique tracks.

The synthesis of diverse components is a huge theme in Lazaretto. It’s not a disjointed collage, though; there’s a common thread that holds it all together.  It’s White’s personality, the same quality that lets you know that the guy singing an acoustic introspection is the same guy who rocked the world with the anthemic “Seven Nation Army” all those years ago.

Lazaretto came out fifteen years (almost to the day) after The White Stripes’ first album dropped, and although it’s pretty far removed from the raw, blues-punk madness that started his career, that’s not a bad thing.  White has evolved as a songwriter, and his latest release is an electric meeting of old and new on several levels.