It's 2007, and with Jack White having signed off on his Motor City divorce (an acrimonious split, rumor has it, but court documents are sealed), it's cash-in time for those he left behind. That's the cynic's view, of course. Yet on this 14-song collection cut by Mike, Tim and John, plus Jack, circa '98 (nine tunes comprised the original Hentch-Forth LP), Jack's name appears no less than five times six, if you count the front sticker, and eleven, if you tally up the mentions in the retail one-sheet. Still, no one will fault a label for trying to sell product, and anyway, Italy released the first White Stripes 45, so they're allowed.
Musically, Hentch-Forth. Five won't disappoint Hentchmen fans, although it's understandably rawer (tape hiss, in-the-red vocals, etc.) than recent Hentch fare. Several tunes are positively insane: the galloping, harp-fueled "Big Screen Lover"; frat-fuzz raveup "Yesterday's Trash"; and bizarro instro "Gawker Delay" (what the hell is that boy doing to his organ?).
Will White Stripes completists salivate too? Maybe. Jack plays bass on 11 songs and sings some backup, although he's really only felt on the R&B/early Beatles-sounding "Some Other Guy" (penned by Richie Barrett) and two versions of the Yardbirds' "Psycho Daisies." In the latter, Jack and Tim rip into a left-channel/right-channel guitar duel that's primal and filthy and ugly and ... perfect.
Intriguingly, the rear sleeve photo depicts three smiling Hentchmen while Jack stands a few paces away, gazing at the trio with a strange half-scowl on his face that could best be described as a mixture of impatience and curiosity. That, along with his awkward stance, suggests that even at this early stage he felt apart from the others. Armchair psychoanalysis, of course but it's hard not to view it now as a foreshadowing.
Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].