Four years removed from the eclectic Boarding House Reach, Jack White returned from the pandemic with enough material for two full LPs. The first, Fear of The Dawn, delved into progressive guitar pieces and purposefully-weird material that makes “Icky Thump” look tame, while his latest release, Entering Heaven Alive, comprises considerably more accessible tracks reminiscent of the late-period White Stripes. Make no mistake, the eleven-track set still stretches the limits of mainstream rock, but the songs tend to be recognizable with distinct melodies and structures and can be digested on a casual listen. Unusual instruments appear, but they do so in service of the music as opposed to being thrown around as a pastiche of distracting art-rock, and White mostly plays guitar between the lines without drifting into noisy passages for noise’s sake.
The piano-based “A Tip from You to Me” introduces the album with a major-minor change that, while strange, works well. “All Along the Way” continues this mix of odd-but-effective tunes with a slower-paced burner that intertwines echoey organ chords and cryptic lyrics into one of the more unique love songs in recent memory. For those who remember the rare single “Love Is The Truth,” “Love Is Selfish” follows the same gentle acoustic pattern with similar vocals, but reveals a far more cynical take on love.
“If I Die Tomorrow,” “Taking Me Back (Gently),” and especially “A Tree on Fire from Within” remind listeners of White’s uncanny ability to write inspired songs whose quality outshines the peculiar arrangements that he chooses to adorn them with. The jaunty tack piano on “A Tree on Fire from Within,” the buzzy guitar interlude on “If I Die Tomorrow,” and the old-timey fiddle on “Taking Me Back (Gently)” each elevate their respective songs without causing distraction. At the same time, take those parts out of the mix and the songs still excel.
There aren’t any weak tracks or moments to be found. Even the oddballs of the set, “Help Me Along” and “Queen of the Bees” aren’t compromised by their carnival atmosphere and xylophone rhythms. “A Madman from Manhattan” will play well with jazz enthusiasts with its coffee shop feel. And lyric enthusiasts should enjoy the surreal images painted with rapid-fire, beat poet delivery that finds a home somewhere between Dr. Seuss and Bob Dylan.
Since disbanding The White Stripes, White’s musical output hasn’t reached the same highs as Elephant and Get Behind Me Satan. Admittedly, those are lofty targets to shoot for, but between short lived side groups, a record label, and a solo career that has produced some great moments, but unfulfilling albums, it felt as if he lacked a certain clarity. Entering Heaven Alive (and to only a slightly lesser degree, Fear Of The Dawn) sees Jack White returning from the pandemic focused, revisiting and reinventing a new artistic zenith in one of the early frontrunners for album of the year.
The Review: 9.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– A Tip from You to Me
– I’ve Got You Surrounded
– A Tree on Fire from Within
– If I Die Tomorrow
– Taking Me Back (Gently)
The Big Hit
– A Tree on Fire from Within
Buy the album: Amazon