Jack White | FEAR OF THE DAWN | (Third Man)
4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Better take a deep breath before pushing play on the first of two Jack White releases this year (the next arrives in July). The ominously titled Fear of the Dawn is a near non-stop, whiplash, roller coaster ride through White’s rocking world. It kicks off with an explosive triple punch that seldom eases off during the following 30 minutes.
Opening with the stun guitar stomper “Taking Me Back” (also the debut single), which wildly careens through Zeppelin-ish power chords, riff happy licks, sputtering electronics, and White’s trademarked yelp, the thumping, high-wire tension is some of the most powerful four minutes in his expansive catalog. It charges into the pounding title track like the White Stripes on steroids as he coaxes elastic, energized squalls out of his guitar. There’s no reprieve on “The White Rave” which sounds like Joe Satriani and Frank Zappa duking it out. All three feature White as the only musician, overdubbing himself but sounding like a band in full flight.
White heads into twisty progressive rock, taking a side road into dub reggae on “Esophobia” (meaning fear of dawn/daylight, referencing the disc’s title), and its percussive reprise five songs later percolates like an outtake from The Police. Offshoots into Cab Calloway referenced hip hop, R&B, and folk on “Hi De Ho” keep you guessing where he’s heading next. On the hard funk workout “Into the Twilight,” he samples William S. Burroughs and Manhattan Transfer. Somehow it gels.
White’s Raconteurs work inspires “Morning, Noon, & Night,” tossing in two short, innovative, and dissimilar guitar solos. Only the closing “Shredding My Velvet” takes the rocket-fueled energy down a notch, although the John Bonham-influenced drums, Jimmy Page-styled guitar fills, and an unusual acoustic ending gradually minimizes the attack.
The vibrant, caffeinated production and pulsating sonics help these performances explode with dollops of the frazzled charm, roaring intensity, and sheer musicality we expect from a Jack White project.
White, a faithful baseball fan, has knocked another one out of the park.