June 3, 2014


The Complete Guide to Jack White's 'Lazaretto'

UPDATE: You can now stream the entire album at iTunes First Play. Enjoy!

On June 10, Jack White releases his sophomore album Lazaretto, the follow-up to 2012's Grammy-nominated album Blunderbuss. Even though he rose to prominence with the White Stripes, he's always had an impact outside that beloved rock duo—first the Raconteurs with Brendan Benson, and then the Dead Weather with the Kills' Alison Mosshart. So far, his solo career has been just as potent. 

White doesn't give too many interviews these days, but he has released a healthy amount of information about the origins and intentions of Lazaretto. Here is the complete guide: 

Lazaretto's Origins

Much of the lyrics on Lazaretto are mined from old journals White found dating back to when he was 19. "I had found these scribble writings or whatever from when I was 19," White told NPR. "I had these one-act plays and whatever they were, poems. They weren't very good. They were just sort of by a person without any experience in life, but with a lot of fire inside of me."

White also said that he's never worked on an album for as long as Lazaretto took. And for him, a year-and-a-half is a long time. "A new problem with these songs is that I recorded the music and I didn't write vocal parts or lyrics for some of them for maybe seven or eight months, so I was in a real bind," he said. "I'd become disconnected with the music."

Though he's a staunch supporter of old-school recording technology, White actually opened up a computer for this one and used Pro Tools. "Some of it I could edit on tape, but some of it, I had to print it to computer, edit it in Pro Tools, and print it back to tape, to make the edits work," he told Rolling Stone. "I've done that in the past. I've still never mixed and recorded an album in Pro Tools. I can't bring myself to live in that world."

The Music

The album is 11 tracks long and clocks in at just under 40 minutes. The first new music we heard was the instrumental track "High Ball Stepper," which White said was the result of editing together three different live performances. You can stream below: 

After that track came the album's title track, "Lazaretto," which White told NPR was inspired by rap. "This was a rhyme about the braggadocio of some hip-hop lyrics—the bragging about oneself in hip-hop music," he said. "The character who's singing this song is bragging about himself, but he's actually bragging about real things he's actually accomplished and real things that he actually does, not imaginary things or things he would like to do." Interestingly enough, White recorded a new version of "Lazaretto" on Record Store Day, where he pressed it to vinyl and sold it to fans on the same day to make "The World's Fastest Record." Listen to that version below: 

The third song from Lazaretto to emerge was "Just One Drink," a duet of sorts that features White singing the blues about being loved and guzzling gasoline. Check it out below: 

Here's the complete Lazaretto tracklist: 

1. Three Women

2. Lazaretto

3. Temporary Ground

4. Would You Fight for My Love? 

5. High Ball Stepper

6. Just One Drink

7. Alone in My Home

8. Entitlement

9. That Black Bat Licorice

10. I Think I Found the Culprit

11. Want and Able

The Jack White-ian Aspects of Lazaretto

Like most things Jack White has his hand in these days, Lazaretto has a lot of interesting nuances built in. Here are a few of the more fascinating notions.

The album is dedicated to a World War I survivor and scientist: "Florence Green, she was the last surviving participant of World War I," he told NPR. "I wrote her name down to think about her as a possible character for one of the songs on the record. I can't remember if I actually applied that to somebody or not; it was so fast. I write down very little, as I was saying before—but sometimes I'll say, 'Oh, okay, I can't play that on the piano and remember that name. I've got to actually write down that person's name.' Anyhow, these were people that came up when I was thinking about characters. And they had incredible lives, but incredible lives in strange ways. One of them's sort of an anarchist, or fighter for freedom. Grace Hopper was an amazing scientist and mathematician for the Navy. I was dedicating the record, and I thought, 'These names are still here. I'm going to dedicate it to them.' The album starts off with 'Three Women,' and I guess it ends with three women. It just made sense."

Giant lily pads inspired the song "Temporary Ground": "I had read in National Geographic about these giant Queen Victoria lily pads that could hold up to a hundred pounds, so a person could actually float on a lily pad, which seems like an Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass kind of idea," he said. "So coincidentally, two ideas about freedom, and the word 'lily' together."

The vinyl edition features a hologram: The ultra-edition of Lazaretto is a vinyl lover's dream come true. It features hidden tracks under the label, different grooves that play different songs, songs that appear when played at different RPM's and the appearance of a hologram when the record spins. Pretty fantastic if you ask us. Check out White explaining it below: 

The Tour

White's playing a mixture of mid-sized theaters and festivals this summer, including hometown shows at Detroit's Fox Theatre and Masonic Temple Theatre on July 27-28, and headlining gigs at New York City's Governors Ball on June 7, Bonnaroo on June 14, Forecastle Festival in Louisville, K.Y. on July 19 and Osheaga Arts Festival in Montreal on August 1-3. Tickets for his theater shows are going from $22.00 to $134 on StubHub. He's one of the best live performers out there these days, so we suggest seeing him at all costs.