In the past, I’ve been a staunch defender of White and his ability to excavate elements of the past to produce something new, but even I’m left scratching my head with this one. Critics argue that White is now simply going through the motions, trading on the phenomenal success of the first couple of White Stripes albums. With Boarding House Reach being the faux-experimental mish-mash it undoubtedly is, Jack White appears determined to merely add weight to that criticism.
Of course, there’s an obvious attempt to present a facade of progression and creativity, and sure there’s the odd glimpse of White doing what he used to do so well, but beyond the album opener, ‘Connected By Love’, there’s not much here to get excited about. And I use the word “excited” liberally, with all the generosity I can muster. You know you’re in trouble when you cite one of the most thoroughly mediocre curtain-raisers of White's entire career as the album’s solitary highlight.
The rest is just noise. Literally. Muffled noise, even. Half formed ideas - see ‘Abulia and Akrasia’ and the shambolic ‘Hypermisophoniac’ for the worst examples - that don’t really go anywhere. Bits and bobs that White in his pomp, or in any other guise other than that of “solo artist”, would surely have been forced to shelf.
It all feels very self-indulgent, highly complacent, and it lacks any of the spark, energy, or grunt - as copyist or derivative as it may have been - that once made Jack White’s music such a vital proposition in the first place.
I remain a fan of his earlier work, naturally, as a paid up member of the Jack White fan club, but Boarding House Reach really is a monumental disappointment to these ears. Even within the context of the steadily diminishing returns White’s solo career has offered up over the past few years.
Boarding House Reach is the musical equivalent of hodge podge night, and when you’ve got house full of notoriously picky eaters, woe behold the chef who serves up anything as half baked as this. Pass the gravy.