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“An imagined cast of characters provides a grandiose, smirkingly-poetic meditation on the need for control and the need to relinquish it – amid layers of intricate instrumentation.”
Whether an exhibition of crushing riffs or heart-wrenching balladry, add smirklingly poetic, rapid-fire lyrics and the song becomes decidedly Jack White. “Nobody noticed I was down on the rug. I’m getting better at becoming a ghost,” White declares on “Would You Fight For My Love?” and though such a sentiment may inform the narrator’s life, the reality is that Lazaretto is far from an imperceptible effort – originating from the ingenious mind of a man who is anything but invisible.
This is White’s Wonderland, or Underland: never minimalistic, occasionally creepy, often nonsensical but always distinctively literate. It is a vibrant realm where he is free to showcase his many incarnations – from Appalachian balladry (“Temporary Ground”) to refreshing Americana (“Just One Drink”) to more Gothic shades of Poe (“I Think I Found the Culprit”), and everything in-between, including the extraterrestrial invasion that is the instrumental “High Ball Stepper.”
But the record’s standout track, and also its grooviest, is undoubtedly “That Black Bat Licorice.” In full-on Kanye-esque rap mogul fashion, White spits some of his most clever lyrics to date: “She writes letters like a Jack Chick comic / just a bunch of propaganda / makes my fingers histrionic like this / and this.” Emotionally potent, Lazaretto solidifies White’s status as an ever-evolving rock ‘n’ roll great.