Album Of The Week: Jack White – Fear Of The Dawn

Jack White moves rock out of the garage and into the cosmos for a mad prog fusion of heavyweight sci-fi blues

When the alien invasion starts, Jack White will bring his guitar. Arriving here with the first of two albums for 2022, Fear Of The Dawn feels more like the soundtrack to 3022 – White’s hard-driven shotgun riffs now strapped to the hood of a UFO in a frenzied squall of noise that might amount to his most ambitious record to date.

What was once stripped-down for The White Stripes and The Raconteurs is now dressed-up in amp-shock psychedelia – delivering old-fashioned bluesy garage rock with cyberpunk energy and a glint of genuine madness. 

2018’s Boarding House Blues showed us what White could do when he was let loose on a loop pedal – scuzzing up vintage rock ideas until something like alchemy came out. Moving his one-man band far beyond whatever experimental phase he was going through four years ago, White’s return with Fear Of The Dawn is heavier, bolder, and more eccentric than anything he’s done before.

Jack White – Taking Me Back (Official Video)

And by eccentric, we mean crazy. And by crazy we mean fascinating – making sure there’s nothing else out there that even runs close. ‘Taking Me Back’ opens with ray gun shimmer to exactly the kind of anarchy and aggression you’d expect from a track that launched with a Call Of Duty trailer. 

Building to comic book excess on ‘The White Raven’ (ripping through guitar strings on a euphoric robot stomp before throwing in an operatic chorus), the album finds its first proper freak-out on the wild-eyed ‘Hi-De-Ho’. White’s opening prayer call cedes to Q-Tip’s Cab Calloway rap, turning a Blues Brothers singalong into a freestyle on Chuck Berry, Mariah Carrey and Tribe Called Quest’s old record contracts (“When you’re hep and you’re clean and you ain’t takin’ no jive, Speaking of Jive, I think I was on that label…”). 

Jack White – Hi-De-Ho (w/ Q-Tip) (Visualizer)

Sounding here like something Tom Waits might make now if he had the energy and the equipment and the oddness, White doubles down with ‘Into the Twilight’, sampling 70s a cappella jazz outfit The Manhattan Transfer as he hops channels and styles. 

The dalek screams and twitchy fireworks calm down for ‘What’s The Trick’, and ‘Morning, Noon, And Night’, grounding White with the kind of tracks you might have heard him put out ten years ago – only slightly inverting the Animals R&B of his youth with a couple of unexpected motorbike grunts.

‘Shedding The Velvet’ steers us out of the haunted house and into bigger expectations for Entering Heaven Alive, already just around the corner with a July 22 release date. More than re-earning his reputation as rock’s Dr Frankenstein, White signals his return here as only he knows how.  

Jack White is playing two dates in 2022 at London’s Eventim Apollo on June 27-28. Tickets are available here.