Jack White zips through so many genres on "Lazaretto" (Third Man) it's dizzying -- classic country one minute, rap-rock the next, and then back again.
The most impressive part, though, is how he handles it all masterfully, bending disparate ideas to his will. In "Lazaretto's" title track, he welds dub to rock and raps with the flow of a Beastie Boy as he crafts an origin story in rhyming couplets. "Born rotten, bored rotten," White raps, "making models of humans out of coffee and cotton."
Maybe it's no surprise that the leader of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather is eclectic, but it is a surprise how well-executed everything is here. In the past, White prided himself on finishing albums in a matter of weeks, going for the visceral rather than the polished. But "Lazaretto" was built over a two-year period, and the craftsmanship shows.
In "That Black Bat Licorice," which is, ostensibly, a rap-rock love song, he name-drops Sigmund Freud and the Egyptian god of war Horus before busting out rhymes like "She's my baby but she makes me get avuncular /And when my monkey's jumpin' I got no time to make it up for her." That's no small feat. And neither is "Would You Fight For My Love?" which plays out like a southern rock "Little Red Corvette."
White may be at his best when he's at his simplest, as with the country-tinged blues rocker "Just One Drink," but he's thrilling on the fancy stuff, too. "Lazaretto" is a wild ride worth taking repeatedly.
THE GRADE A
BOTTOM LINE Jack, master of all trades.