Album Review Jack White - Entering Heaven Alive

An entrancing record, full of quiet calm, and plenty of musical rabbit-holes to dive down.

Jack White - Entering Heaven Alive

That the ongoing congestion in vinyl pressing plants (including, it should be noted, his own) put pay to Jack White’s original intention to release both this and April’s ‘Fear of the Dawn’ simultaneously is somewhat of a silver lining. For, had they been issued at once, there’s a large chance the sheer force of its older sibling would’ve smothered ‘Entering Heaven Alive’. For the most part, this fifth solo album from the musical polymath is sonically subdued, the gnarl of April’s release swapped for a largely acoustic-led, often jazzy palette. Lines can be much more easily drawn to his work with The Raconteurs - see the Beatlesy piano of opener ‘A Tip From You To Me’, the build of ‘All Along The Way’ or the sprawling melancholy of ‘A Tree On Fire From Within’ (“Even a dead rose is a good rose / You only have to see one to know”). Its nods to Jack’s origin story are similarly less immediate: where ‘Hi-De-Ho’ blasted Harlem superstar Cab Calloway with a hip hop beat, ‘Please God, Don’t Tell Anyone’ echoes blues’ storytelling tradition in its lyrics (we might yet have heard should “Well, my boy started screaming, so I started stealing / My daughter was crying, so I started lying / My baby was sobbing, so I started robbing with a gun” be literal biography) and also one guesses, its author’s own Catholic guilt (“Will the things I did well even save me from Hell? / I can’t even recall all the sins I can’t tell”). But just like its counterpoint, there’s a playfulness, a sense of trying things out just because. ‘Queen of the Bees’ is almost coquettish, and plays into Jack’s self-styled caricature; ‘A Madman from Manhattan’ marries jazz with a distinctly modern hip hop rhythm, a story told with old-timey phrasing (“There’s a madman from Manhattan / There with a man’s hat and a floor mat made of satin”) delivered in almost rap cadence. Best of all, though, is ‘I’ve Got You Surrounded (With My Love)’, a track which plays with the sinister reading of its title repeatedly, through vocal effects and repetition - and even finds a route to slide in wah-wah guitar. Sure, by drawing such a line between the songs’ distinct personalities - at its most base level, between ‘quiet’ and ‘loud’ - ‘Entering Heaven Alive’ may not possess any of his more immediate tendencies. But what remains is still an entrancing record, full of quiet calm, and plenty of musical rabbit-holes to dive down.

 

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