I have come to the assumption I must be the only person who does not think that Jack White’s Lazaretto is the best thing in the world. I may be exaggerating slightly, but it really seems that everyone loves this album. NME rated it 7⁄10. Pitchfork rated it 7.1. Rolling Stone rated it 4 stars. So, what is all the fuss about?
The definition of a lazaretto is “an isolation hospital for people with infectious diseases, especially leprosy or plague”. I cannot help but see the irony when it appears that I am in isolation with my views on this debauched album. The second song, Lazaretto, is by far the best example of embracing these themes on the album. White is successful in taking the physical lazaretto concept and creating a song which screams (both literally and metaphorically) of the artist that White should be. Yet it is not hard to beat the other songs on this album – their overproduction and tedious lyrics are probably a product of Jack’s increasing artistic freedom.
One example of Lazaretto’s poor counterparts is Three Women; this track displays Jack: The Womanizer, to modern mixed blues. Sounds amazing, right? The backing track is admittedly a rocking-blues mash up masterpiece, with flawless riffs and beautiful production. However, someone needs to tell Jack that sometimes less is more. In addition, the lyrics are dire. Completely and utterly dire. This song does not fit in with the theme of madness and isolation. The newly divorced White is clearly attempting to appease his fleeting sense of manliness. Lyrics such as: “I got three women / Red, blonde and brunette / It took a digital photograph / To pick which one I like,” or even “She says she loves her daddy / But only when he’s got bills to pay” just highlight yet another song with a depressingly misogynistic undertone. Thank God it’s not as bad as everyone’s favourite, Blurred Lines… But maybe I am reading too much into these lyrics. Hey, at least it’s got a good beat.
Would You Fight For My Love is another highlight of the album, with White’s strengths as a musician, artist, and lyricist on full display. His raw lyrics marry together with the subdued, yet powerful, backing track to create, arguably, the finest song on Lazaretto. What made this track strong was the fact that it was believable – that I could hear the desperation in White’s lyrics.
The rest of the album, frankly, bored me to tears. I struggle to even find the words to describe just how forgettable the songs are. Temporary Ground is a song that clearly aims to be full of substance with its slow ballad feel. Instead, its monotonous sound and lacklustre lyrics contain little emotion. The repetitive lyric of “I love you, honey, why don’t you love me?” in Just One Drink made me want to “drink gasoline”. Do not even bother to listen to I Think I Found The Culprit or Want And Able – it was dull and uninspiring that if I was not reviewing this album I would have turned over to something less mind numbing.
I cannot help but feel that this album did not stand up to the intense hype surrounding all things Lazaretto. Jack’s golden hour was clearly in The White Stripe days – where Meg was able to (rather successfully) rein Jack’s ideas in. That’s exactly what this album needs – to be focused (rather than to be all over the creative shop). I wanted so badly to like this album, but instead I have been left disenchanted and disappointed.
Better luck next time, Jack.