by Rory McArthur – @RoryMeep
Just when you thought he’d disappeared off the face of the planet, Jack White blasts his way back onto the scene with a surprise new single. Following his 2014 triumph, Lazaretto, the blues punk master has been keeping it fairly low-key. Aside from an acoustic compilation record, White’s attention has largely been away from his own material, focusing on his ‘Third Man Records’ label and on production, notably gaining a credit on the latest Beyonce record. All this looks set to change from now on, however, with his latest scorching slice of guitar heft finally landing in our laps. Battle Cry soundtracks a new promo video for baseball bat manufacturer Warstic, which White has recently invested in, in which he portrays a mysterious character known as ‘The Raven’. The tracks blistering intensity provides a perfect backdrop for the dramatic ad, but how does it fare on its own?
Perhaps disappointingly for some, the track is almost entirely instrumental, save for the occasional chant of “Hey!” during the first minute or so. After this, the song gives way to a crushingly simplistic riff, making it abundantly clear that White has lost none of his swaggering musicianship in his time away from the spotlight. This is punctuated with an octave shifted squall of a guitar solo, the kind of instrumentation that was so brilliantly utilised on White’s previous two solo outings. White deploys these familiar tools in his arsenal to produce 3 minutes positively brimming with intensity, in the mould of so many classic moments from throughout his career.
Despite the undeniable quality of the track, it does play more like a taster of what’s to come than the peak of any forthcoming offerings. If there is a new album to follow, you would expect Battle Cry to be vastly improved upon with relative ease. When compared with High Ball Stepper, the incendiary first single from Lazaretto, this track falls far short of what this artist is clearly capable of when dealing with instrumentals. The riff becomes tiresome after multiple listens, failing to echo the quality of the city-levelling heaviness White has become known for ever since his days fronting The White Stripes. Instead, the track partially satisfies yet leaves you wanting, and demanding, more, which, when considering the context of its release, might just be its intention.
Although Battle Cry comes nowhere near equaling the finest output of this fantastic artist, it does serve as a reminder. A reminder that Jack White is still a force to be reckoned with, an artist who could easily wipe the floor with most of his contemporaries, while running a successful record label, working with the world’s biggest pop stars and funding baseball bat manufacturers with his other 6 hands. Despite not being a perfect return, expect big things from the former White Stripe sooner rather than later.