Review: Consistently High Energy Largely Sustains Jack White's 'Fear of the Dawn'

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday April 13, 2022

Review: Consistently High Energy Largely Sustains Jack White's 'Fear of the Dawn'

The title of Jack White's latest solo album, "Fear of the Dawn," refers to the condition of eosophobia, where a morbid fear of daylight can result in panic attacks. It would make sense then that White includes a track called "Eosophobia" around the middle of the album, and then a reprise closer to the end. Logically, other song titles suggest some sort of thematic link — the title track, "Into the Twilight," and "Dusk." But lyrically, there doesn't appear to be any specific concept to this record other than occasional explorations of mortality.

Musically, however, an anxious energy pervades the album, manifesting in songs that are ultimately difficult to characterize. White isn't indulging in mere pastiche — there is no genre-hopping from one song to the next. Rather, within the framework of a given song, styles coexist in ways that sound like nothing in the contemporary mainstream. For instance, the opening one-two punch of "Taking Me Back" and the title track are marked by fuzzed out electro funk synth bass and White's trademark electric guitar scrawls. Neither are funk nor rock, and neither split the difference. The result is perplexing. Throughout the remainder of the album, that electro rock clang is fitted with elements of reggae, jazz (with Cab Calloway and two Manhattan Transfer samples), blues, and soul but without elevating any one style above another. It's exhilaratingly strange.

The hip hop of "Hi-De-Ho," which features Q-Tip, initially sounds like an aberration and, despite being a fine song, never fully claims its rightful spot on the album. It simply maintains the momentum between "The White Raven" (one of the album's finest moments) and "Eosophobia." Similarly, the half-minute instrumental "Dusk" interrupts the flow between the radioactive "Into the Twilight" and "What's the Trick."

In the album's final third, a clutch of tracks —"That Was Then, This is Now," "Morning, Noon and Night," and "Shedding My Velvet" — that sound a little closer to the vintage blues-based rock of his 2012 masterwork, "Blunderbuss." However, that's not to say White makes any easy concessions to his recent past.

There's no denying "Fear of the Dawn" is the noisiest of White's solo albums. It will be interesting to hear how his upcoming fifth album, due this summer and allegedly rooted in folk, sounds by comparison. There's a consistently high energy that largely sustains "Fear of the Dawn," an album whose closest musical bedfellow might very well be Prince's 1995 fan-favorite "The Gold Experience," an album of audacious genre bending from some 27 years back. And that audaciousness is exactly what works best about White's album: It is intentionally bold and purposeful in its elusive strangeness.

"Fear of the Dawn" is available now.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.