Record Reviews

Jack White

Album: “Boarding House Reach”

Grade: B

For his third solo album, Jack White, the mad scientist of rock, got out of his comfort zone. Mind you, his comfort zone would make a lot of musicians go insane.

White recorded in New York and Los Angeles for the first time and sought out musicians he hadn’t worked with before — some he hadn’t ever even met. Then he listened to what happened.

“Boarding House Reach” is the result and it’s thrilling stuff, but more than a little disorienting. White’s trademark yowl and fuzzy guitar are firmly in place but then, suddenly, there might be a conga drum solo. Or a synth riff. Or a face-melting distorted chorus. You quickly get the sense that this is what the inside of Jack White’s head sounds like.

The 13-track Frankenstein-like album doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s like a jolt of electricity, mixing hip-hop, gospel, blues, country and hard rock. “Forgive me and save me from myself,” White warns us in one lyric.

The successes include the funky, hard-rocking tunes “Over and Over and Over” and “Corporation.” “Ice Station Zebra” is brilliant, but in bizarre way. Many of the album’s best moments are drum-led, extended propulsive riffs, like on “Respect Commander.”

—Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

David Byrne

Album: “American Utopia”

Grade: B

David Byrne has been asking questions and looking for answers since the first Talking Heads album over 40 years ago, and “American Utopia” continues that healthy habit.

The new album is a mix of some anxious, highly-charged moments tempered by sweet melodies and gentle rhythms. Sometimes it all happens on the same track. Opener “I Dance Like This” starts as a gentle piano ballad, albeit with quirky lyrics, and turns into an assault of mechanic rhythms before switching back. “Gasoline and Dirty Sheets” could be off “Naked,” the last Talking Heads album, while the South American refrain from “Every Day Is A Miracle,” a song with four drummers, would fit on “Rei Momo,” Byrne’s first post-Heads solo album.

The “ripe for a remix” and sinuously danceable “Everybody’s Coming to My House” reminds of LCD Soundsystem, while “Bullet” is a graphic description of a projectile as it makes its way through a man’s body.

—Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

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