Jack White Turns Everything Up to 11 on 'Fear of the Dawn'

BY Alex HudsonPublished Apr 4, 2022

"The easy way out would be to cater to the person who just wants me to record 'Fell in Love With a Girl' or 'Lazaretto' over and over again, and then keep writing 55 songs with heavy riffs in them. That's just boring to me. I just don't have the patience to numb my brain that much."

Jack White said that in a 2018 interview with Exclaim! about his experimental third solo album, Boarding House Reach. But White has clearly rediscovered his love for heavy riffs, since fourth solo outing Fear of the Dawn just might be the most consistently heavy record in his entire career.

White's energy is at a fever pitch for nearly all of Fear of the Dawn, with lead single "Taking Me Back" setting the tone for this frenzied album. It's not a red herring: title track "Fear of the Dawn" soaks its swing time groove in low-end fuzz and sci-fi synth screeches, while the caveman blues licks of "What's the Trick?" trace a line all the way back to the White Stripes' pre-fame albums.

This isn't to say that White is repeating himself. "Hi-De-Ho" is a particularly freaky offering, beginning with a dramatic overture of swing legend Cab Calloway's singing before doing a complete 180 with a rap verse from Q-Tip. It's a bit of a mess, but it's entertaining to hear White take such a big swing. "Into the Twilight" blends its guitar crunch with a prominent vocal sample, while the computerized guitars of "The White Raven" and "That Was Then (This Is Now)" are so effected that it's difficult to tell what's a six-string and what's a synth. The short instrumental "Dusk" reemerges in the extended outro of "Morning, Noon and Night," a compelling collision of jammed-out rambunctiousness and studio trickery.

Ironically, it's the quietest song here — the bluesy, slow-burning closer "Shedding My Velvet" — that possibly leaves the biggest impression, opting for sexy swagger over brash stomp. This bodes well for White's next album, Entering Heaven Alive, which follows this summer and is said to be a much mellower listen.

White has explored many of the ideas heard on Fear of the Dawn before: the robo riffs of "Blue Orchid," the atmospheric hip-hop rhythms of "Freedom at 21" and the bloopy synth squiggles of Boarding House Reach are all touchpoints here. But Fear of the Dawn pushes these ideas so far that it still feels like a bold step forward.

By splitting his 2022 albums into two distinct projects and saving his quieter material for Entering Heaven Alive, White has delivered his best release since 2012's Blunderbuss, and one of the most consistently exciting albums in his 25-year-career.
(Third Man Records)

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