Deconstructing 'Lazaretto' By Jack White (Produced by Jack White)

[I started writing this post last week, and this had not happened yet, so after you read my 'Deconstructing' post, click this link to find out the recent change in events. Marketing stunt? Maybe....or maybe not.]

One thing (among many) that I really enjoy about writing these deconstruct posts, is that I learn so much about any given artist when I'm in the "research" phase. For example, I had no clue how much distaste Jack White had for The Black Keys. So much to the point that Jack White specifically made sure that Dan Auerbach could not enter into one of his Third Man Records events AND that the media leaked email correspondence between White and his ex-wife Karen Elson, "begging" her to remove their child from the same childcare as Dan's child was attending. Remembers, it's the media we're talking about here, so some level of discretion should be taken into consideration, but talk about diggin deep....

Either way, in the end, personality is personality, there are three sides to every story (the right one, the wrong one, and the truth), and music is music. One passion and strength, that White consistently shines in. I mean come on, check out this video explaining the "extras" included in the vinyl release of his new album 'Lazaretto', out June 10 (which is the same date that The Record Machine is releasing Chambers debut album 'Inner Room'...sorry, had to get that plug in there! But now back to business). A holograph on the record? Hidden tracks on the inner grooves of the album,playing from inside out AND a locked loop at the end of the side of the record. This is some next level shit, no doubt.

Usually when I see a lot of "bells & whistles" I start to question if the artist and/or label is doing this because the music and production are shitty, or if it's a marketing stunt to get people to buy the album. Considering what White managed to pull off on Record Store Day (which I imagine raised his blood pressure a bit), one would think that maybe both of these criteria apply, but after listening to the few opening seconds of the single 'Lazaretto', I can tell you that it's definitely not the first one.


Side note: When I co-hosted a radio show with Sara Bradshaw a few months ago, on a fantastic radio station called The Bridge (seriously though, putting local bands into normal rotation is an amazing feat and you should take five mins to check out their website), she told me that when the station received the first track off of the album, an instrumental called 'High Ball Stepper', it was on April 1st so she thought it was an April Fools Day joke. Which is quite understandable, considering the press for the album had not been on the forefront of everyone's news feeds, and that it was an instrumental. How's that for a Beyonce-esque type promotion move?

As with mostly all of White's solo material (as well as some of The White Stripes), the production value is always creative and quite polished considering the genre. Likewise, for the most part, the songwriting is top notch. White does a good job of mixing current electronic elements into a majority of his tracks, while also maintaining his signature warm/analog dirty rock tones and feel. It also helps to have a very talented live band (or in his case...bands, both all female and all male) to pull this off.

I've not really dug into lyrics before on any of the previous 'Deconstructing' posts (Ed Sheeran & The Black Keys), but I do want to mention the interesting story told with this song, in which you can find all about (and more) in this NPR interview. You even get to hear other tracks off the new album...#winning.

So, without further ado, let's dive into this funky beast of a track. Below is the structure:
 
Section Time (min:sec)
Intro START - 0:10
Vs 1 (A) 0:11 - 0:31
Vs 1 (B) 0:32 - 0:42
Pre-Chorus 0:43 - 0:48;  
1:10 - 1:14;  
1:47 - 1:56 &
3:09 - 3:12
Chorus 0:49 - 1:09
Vs 2 1:15 - 1:25
Instrumental #1 1:26 - 1:46
Bridge (A) 1:57 - 2:47
Bridge (B) 2:48 - 3:08
Outro 3:13 - END
 
*White effectively uses the Pre-Chorus many times throughout the track as "glue" to keep familiarity streaming throughout track.* 

Intro
Section Time (min:sec)
Intro START - 0:10
  • The verse guitar riff kicks off the track, and is panned hard left with a hard right panned aux channel delay effect.
  • The main bass tone (more attack than low end) is panned hard right, with a hard left panned aux channel reppin' the low end bass tone.
  • The electronic FX's that come in at the end of this section are panned about 35% right.
  • The drums utilize four kicks at the end of the section to introduce the drums and re-enforce the tempo. Notice that you can hear the snare resonate with the kick hits. This helps add character to the drum tone.
  • A kick/snare/hi-hat/cymbal drum fill is utilized at the end of the second measure introducing Vs 1 (A1).
  • NOTE: Notice how the drums sit more back in the mix, as compared to The Black Key's track I deconstructed a few weeks ago, which sat very forward in the mix.

Vs 1 (A)
Section Time (min:sec)
Vs 1 (A) 0:11 - 0:31
  • A cymbal hit kicks off Vs 1 (A), with the hi-hat maintaining a 16th note pattern to keep the verse moving. Notice that the cymbals are not panned off center, or hard right/left, as with a lot of pop/rock music.
  • The main vocals come in, center panned,  with the first set of background vocals panned hard right with reverb, delay and what sounds to be a little bit of distortion.
  • The same drum fill as in the intro, ends this section off.
  • A super sweet lyric is delivered "Yo trabajo duro, Como en madera y yeso." Which metaphorically means "I'm the shit"...check out to the NPR interview to hear White talk more about it. 
  • Also notice that now, there is another clean background vocal (EQ'd to remove a lot of low/mid frequencies with the purpose of distinguishing it from the main vocal) panned about 25% left.

Vs 1 (B)
Section Time (min:sec)
Vs 1 (B) 0:32 - 0:42
  • A cymbal hit kicks off this section, while the drums maintain the same pattern.
  • Now a lead guitar comes in, center panned, playing the verse riff in a higher octave. This lead guitar tone is wetted with a long decaying reverb that you can hear after the riff is muted.
  • Noticed how the Spanish lyrics are repeated twice, which breaks up this first verse nicely before the second half of the verse lyrics come in around 0:32 secs. This can serve many purposes, and in this track I'm assuming that 1) it lyrically sets the "story" for the remainder of the track and 2) it gives the listener something to latch onto and remember, before barraging them with more non-repeating lyrics (which can be challenging for the average person to remember upon the first few listens).
  • The left panned background vocal doubles the main vocal at the end of the section, which helps to emphasize the lyrics and fill the audio spectrum before the Pre-Chorus hits.
  • Guitar feedback is introduced, and center panned to help build the excitement of the open guitar strums in the Pre-Chorus.

Pre-Chorus
Section Time (min:sec)
Pre-Chorus 0:43 - 0:48
  • NOTE: Remember this short section, because as noted above, it's used a few times throughout the track for familiarity purposes and to help "glue" the track together.
  • Open guitar strums are introduced in this section to help keep the track dynamic and interesting. The verses are very "bouncy", and this section is very fluid (aside from the short bass hammer-on).
  • The open guitar strums are center panned, while the hard left channel panned guitar keeps it's tone as in the verses, but at a lower volume. The lower volume technique is most likely used to maintain consistency across the audio spectrum, as since your ears are now use to hearing a hard panned right guitar tone. If for some reason it were to suddenly drop out, it would sound a bit weird.
  • The drums switch briefly to a bell hit on the ride, and ends before the section is over with four kick and cymbal hits. This drum break was also used at the beginning of the song (minus the cymbal hits).
  • The electronic FX that we heard in the Intro comes back, and follows the trill played by the stringed instruments.

Chorus
Section Time (min:sec)
Chorus 0:49 - 1:09
  • Another cymbal hit kicks off this section to distinguish it from the Pre-Chorus, and the drum beat returns to the verse groove. During the last measure of this section, a short drum fill is played on the fourth count of the measure.
  • The verse guitar riff and bass switch back to the VS 1 (A) note progressions.
  • There electronic FX now double (a few octaves higher) the first and last three notes of the guitar riff, ending with an arpeggiated hit that decays into the first note of the next measure. However, notice that the notes played change slightly at the end of the section.
  • Another lead instrument (most likely a synth/orchestral patch or plan muted guitar) panned about 25% left, mimics the guitar riff in an octave lower than the electronic FX.
  • There is a short whistle/bell patch that mimics the guitar run section of the riff (lasts about a second and is introduced the first time around 50 secs), panned about 25-30% left.
  • NOTE: You might be wondering why the hell all of these new instruments/patches introduced are mimic'ing the guitar riff, and are not playing different notes or rhythms within the key of the song. Well, there are many reasons that could be argued, however the idea of "simplicity" rules them all. In most songs, there needs to be a way to help the listener distinguish sections of the track. A lot of artists in pop/rock music use the "anchoring" or IV, III or V chords (read up on the Nashville numbering system here, trust me, it will make sense and help you speak the lingo as a knowledgeable producer) to kick off any particular section. In this particular track, White decided to continue to utilize this verse riff (I'm assuming because it's a pretty sweet groove), and then add consistent, as well as sporadic, instrumentation to make each section feel different but also familiar.
  • The background vocals now switch to just the left channel, and are used sporadically for various lyrics.
  • This section ends with a drum fill (introduced by sync'd kick/cymbal hits) and guitar feedback, pretty identical to what was used at the end of Vs 1 (B).

Pre-Chorus
Section Time (min:sec)
Pre-Chorus 1:10 - 1:14
  • Here is the Pre-Chorus again, same as before, yet and organ is now added (panned about 35% left) which follows the guitar melody and trill.Likewise, the electronic FX also come in during the trill part of the riff. Notice how at the end of this section, this FX sounds a little "flubbed" and not exactly matching what the other instruments are playing. Here again, we see that "human" factor in the music I talked about during my last 'Deconstruct' post.
  • The background vocal placement in the Chorus, stays consistent here and doubles the main vocal throughout the whole section.

Vs 2
Section Time (min:sec)
Vs 2 1:15 - 1:25
  • An interesting thing happens here if you A|B the first verse to the second verse, can you hear what I'm talking about? Yes! The drums are louder, at least 2-3 dB's higher than the first verse. I'm thinking that this was done to help maintain the energy the Chorus and Pre-Chorus built.
  • The background vocals (left panned) are present throughout about 90% of this verse.
  • The electronic FX maintain the note doubles as we heard in the Chorus.
  • A longer drum fill (pretty much the entire second measure) helps break up the groove for a quick minute before Instrumental #1 comes in, while a very short feedback ends the section. 

Instrumental #1
Section Time (min:sec)
Instrumental #1 1:26 - 1:46
  • The drums switch from the hi-hat to the crash cymbal(s) for this entire section. As a side note, what sounds a bit odd to me, is that the kick and snare sound completely isolated from the crash, which leads me to believe that either they were recorded separately (which isn't uncommon), or the engineer gated the shit out of the snare and kick. Typically, engineers in this genre like to have a "whole kit" sound on their rock drums, in which a little bleed usually sounds good.
  • Enter the ripping guitar solo, sitting very forward in the mix with a similar distortion tone to the hard left panned guitar.
  • The electronic FX is brought back in the second half of this section.
  • NOTE: The hard left panned distorted guitar is turned down to a very unnoticeable level (in which you can only really hear the distortion decay), and the synth/orchestral string patch we first heard in the Chorus is the most present instrument in that audio location of the mix. I'm willing to bet that this was done so the listener mainly focuses on the solo. If I didn't mention it, would you have heard the difference? It's amazing what we focus in on, at any given point in a song.

Pre-Chorus
Section Time (min:sec)
Pre-Chorus 1:47 - 1:56
  • This section is back! However, this time around, at the end of the section, the tempo slows down. This tempo reduction is masked by letting the instruments decay off. If you were to slow the tempo down this much while having the instruments still going full steam, it wouldn't sound as pleasing to the ear, and might be jarring.
  • At the end of this section I really enjoy the fact that you can hear a finger move into position to start off the next section's guitar riff. It's very brief, but great that the engineer did not edit it out. Can you guys what I'm about to say? Humanize...humanize...humanize!

Bridge (A)
Section Time (min:sec)
Bridge (A) 1:57 - 2:47
  • The first thing to notice in this section, is that you can hear the snare vibrate to the resonance of the guitar. This can be a result of a few different hings, however I'm willing to bet that the drums were set up in the same room as the guitar amp, with the snare turned on and the amp blasting.
  • The guitar riff is palm muted, and slowly opens up throughout the repeat of the riff, to help build dynamics into a very open and powerful instrumental.
  • An instrument slide is panned about 45% to the right, with some heavy effects on it, which then introduces the rest of the instruments and maintains throughout the section. Notice how this instrument drops in volume when the vocals come in, most likely to make room for the background vocals.
  • The drums play a half time feel, riding the crash hard as shit.
  • The bass is now center panned.
  • The background vocals (both left and right) are present throughout this entire section.
  • This section ends with open drum/instrument hits, as the tempo gradually builds back up to it's original BPM at the end of the trill.
  • Now we are back at the original tempo, and the section ends with the verse guitar riff and accompany instrumentation.

Bridge (B)
Section Time (min:sec)
Bridge (B) 2:48 - 3:08
  • The verse instruments maintain their presence in the mix.
  • From this point on, there are no more vocals.
  • Two violins (at least that's what they sound like to me) are introduced, with the lower octave melody panned about 20% left, and the higher octave melody panned about 10% right. Although they follow the same "ups and downs" of the melody, they do not dual each other, but rather play off each other to keep it interesting.
  • The drums switch back to playing the ride cymbal's bell, and utilize the open/close hi-hat pattern (similar to the verse).
  • For the last two measures, the drums switch to hits and cymbal crashes.
  • A simple snare fill re-introduces the Pre-Chorus.

Pre-Chorus
Section Time (min:sec)
Pre-Chorus 3:09 - 3:12
  • Here is it again! Yet, this time around, there open guitar strums are very low in volume.
  • For the first half of this part, the drums play an upbeat rhythm (more frequent snare hits), only to come back down in the second half. This is an interesting use of drum dynamics, as in my opinion, it really isn't needed as the outro is upon us.

Outro
Section Time (min:sec)
Outro 3:13 - END
  • The song ends with drum hits (as you would typically see when a band ends a live version of the song), trills by various instruments that purposely don't synch up, and a slow in tempo, only to build into chaos until everyone hits on the final note.


What I really enjoyed about this track is that the entire song is pretty much built around repeating the verse riff (which is understandable, since it's so damn sweet), and the change up in tempo during Bridge (A). Somewhat unrelated, but does Bridge (A) and parts of the solo in Instrumental #1 sound like Rage Against The Machine to anyone else but me?

Questions, comments or general feedback? Is there a particular track you'd like me to deconstruct? Hit me up. ~AE|Beats

Below is my boy Shawn Parrotte, showing you how to not only play the verse riff and pre-chorus, but also the ripping solo. Hell yes. 
 

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