The rocker celebrates his 45th birthday today
Jack White almost became a priest.
But then again, did he? The iconic rocker has regularly beguiled the press. "I'd got accepted to a seminary in Wisconsin," he told 60 Minutes Mike Wallace back in 2005 in what seemed like a moment of genuine candor. "At the last second, I thought, 'I'll just go to public school."
Whether you believe that story or not, the blues-rock polymath, who turns 45 today, has led an undeniably punk life and crafted some of the most sacred rock music in history. Two decades after The White Stripes' self-titled debut, Jack White has remained purposefully slippery with the public. He told publications that he and Meg White, his then-wife and White Stripes-cohort, were the youngest of ten siblings and claimed that his label, Third Man Records, used to be a candy company, among other outlandish claims.
While elusive to the masses, White has remained forthcoming in all of his music. Each of his side-projects over the years painted a fuller picture of Jack White's mystical identity without giving too much away. The Dead Weather is for his vindictive tendencies, while his solo endeavors have shared his intimacy. All in all, he remains very rock and roll. Here are a few of his underappreciated albums over the years.
Dodge & Burn by The Dead Weather
Cocked and loaded, The Dead Weather's 2015 effort, Dodge and Burn, finds the band at their most calamitous. "I got a bloodhound tooth hanging like a dagger," Kills vocalist Alison Mosshart cackles on "Let Me Through" with distorted hisses. With White on drums, The Dead Weather is White at his most implacable.
When he announced no touring would be done in support of Dodge & Burn, the implication was that TDW was formed as a sort of catharsis for White, somewhere to put all the rock-and-roll tar that he's built up over the years. The Captain Beefhart inspired super-group all but detonated on Dodge & Burn, with their slinky grunge guitars and feral growls all sounding extra crunchy.
The band reflects on the inevitable apocalypse with a bombastic snap that gladly welcomes violence and destruction ("Open Up") and rolls their eyes at anyone who threatens to ruin their demolition, even if its Jesus himself ("Buzzkill(er)." Dodge & Burn is reserved exclusively for those who need to let off a little steam...or start a bar fight.
Consolers of the Lonely by The Raconteurs
Before Beyonce's surprise album redefined the marketing of new releases, The Raconteurs rushed the arrival of 2008's Consolers of the Lonely, all but upending press coverage and flipping mass media the bird in the process. Announced and released within a week, Consoler's remains one of The Raconteur's grittiest records.
Broken Boy Soldier's light-hearted buoyancy was nowhere to be seen. "Haven't seen the sun in a week, my skin is getting pale," calls out Brendan Banson before cackling guitars snap the necks of anyone who has a problem with it on Consoler's intro.
Jack White is dripping in manic swagger as The Raconteur's co-frontman. He makes the big hooks sound comfortable and casual as if he's jamming with some friends in his garage. He morphs the country twang of "Top Yourself" into a crude, braggadocious declaration of anti-love, ("How you gonna get that deep, when your daddy ain't around here to do it to you?") and uses bright, uplifting horns on "Many Shades of Black" to affirm to the same lover that their tumultuous relationship was destined to end, so it's okay.
It's all so petty and punk, with White at times bordering on deranged, but it's what adds to The Racounter's unsettling charm. They refuse to be your favorite rock band.
Get Behind Me Satan by The White Stripes
While highly contested, Get Behind Me Satan is The White Stripes boldest album, taking the blues-rock sounds of Elephant and De Stijl that brought them national fame and throwing it to the wolves in favor of oddball piano arrangements, acoustic guitars, and many marimbas. It finds White spiraling into despair, with quirky tracks like "White Moon" and "Little Ghost" sounding like a real-time emotional breakdown, the latter's narrator performing obscure tasks like "dancing" with "the wall" as he falls in love with a ghost only he can see.
While the record left critics confused, it's jarring sound redefined The White Stripes' identity. Known for their hard-hitting arena rock, Get Behind Me Satan blew open the door for what came after. They were no longer confined to anything and were free to create whatever they pleased. It was inherently a move that was super rock and roll.
Lazaretto by Jack White
Lazaretto is Jack White as his most relentless. Each song on his magnetic sophomore work is a show of force. While Meg White's absence is notable and at times the album borders on Jack White just flexing his guitar chops, each song is full of intricacies that tumble into each other, redefining what's possible under the "blues-rock" moniker. It's inherently busy, with tracks like "High Ball Stepper" descending into chaos with its screams, crisp guitars, organs, and banjo slowly closing in on you–but Lazaretto found White pushing himself endlessly. What was he truly capable of when alone in a room with other bold musicians? The answer was: a lot.
The cover-art finds White sitting elegantly on a stone throne decorated by angels, a casual flex by White, who believed himself to be a tour-de-force, otherworldly musician, unconfined to the creative restrictions of the mortal world. It was a bold claim that only Jack White could make.