Jack White, man of mystery and wild guitar licks, dropped an out-of-the-blue single just after midnight Friday. No announcement, no lyrics, no explanation—only "Battle Cry." Listen below:
Two and a half minutes of raging guitar and the drums of olden times recall the wild rides of "Icky Thump" and, more recently, "High Ball Stepper." The latter, off his latest album, Lazaretto, is also the most recent example of a surprise instrumental release. Back in 2014, fans awaiting a sequel to 2012's Blunderbuss got their preview in an instrumental track full of screeching guitar and thumping drums. That surprise lead to the Lazaretto LP soon after.
Is "Battle Cry" an early signal of an upcoming Jack White release? White released his acoustic retrospective in 2016, a journey through the career of a songwriter as skilled in lyrical beauty and guitar virtuosity as he is in shredding, unstoppable solos. But with just one new track (and that, technically a White Stripes song), the rocker is due for new solo music.
The Dead Weather, Jack's collab with Kills frontwoman Alison Mosshart, put out Dodge and Burn in 2015. Meanwhile, rumors about a third Raconteurs album continue to pop up and whither every few months, maintaining just enough mystery to keep hope alive.
White did make a guest appearance on The Muppets last year that produced an excellent cover of Stevie Wonder's "You Are the Sunshine of My Life." And don't forget about his song with Beyoncé and guitar features on A Tribe Called Quest. Single versions of three Lazaretto songs came with new B-sides but there's been no real talk of a follow-up album until, well…
"Battle Cry" is a scorcher of a song that tears past in under three minutes and leaves charred earth behind it. It's only visual is a spearhead on the single's cover art but it's better to imagine the sky-blackening rain of arrows in 300. Shouts echo over the steady, pounding rhythm of drums before the heavy, heavy guitar rolls in. The song ignites in the middle with battling whammied solo parts, those signature-White wailing high notes. The brief song ends, whistling, like a pressure cooker about to blow.
It's as cryptic as any Jack White project at this point but it's certainly burst into the weekend wildly and jumpstarted the hype for what's coming.