Album reviews: Jack White, Bananarama

Jack White
Entering Heaven Alive

Former White Stripe and general alternative music legend Jack White’s second album of 2022 is here. The first was Fear of the Dawn, which was raucous and experimental and a lot to take in. Entering Heaven Alive is very much its opposite: bluesy acoustic ditties with none of the fire of White at his best.

Sometimes it feels unfair to compare a musician to their past work: after all, Entering Heaven Alive is not meant to be what Elephant was in 2003. It’s not meant to sucker-punch you like his work on Beyoncé’s furious “Don’t Hurt Yourself”. But it is a shame, because when White pours his hunger and energy in, he makes culture-defining music – and there is absolutely nothing about this album that suggests it will be remembered beyond filling a niche.

“I don’t ask myself for nothing any more/ My peace is freedom from the masses,” he sings on the album’s first song, “A Tip from You to Me”. It is laudable to do whatever you want artistically and sure, you could argue that he has earned it, but maybe half an eye on the masses might have pushed him to zhuzh up some of these tedious songs.

White front-loads the record with the songs that have more going on – crashing cymbal washes and the odd crunch of guitar – before he moves into the campfire singalongs.

Songs meander their way from start to finish, never feeling like they really go anywhere. It feels a lot like an album of B-sides – except sometimes you get some real gems hidden away on B-sides; not here. They just seem to exist for the sake of existing.

Lyrics don’t really seem to say anything and rely on childish metaphor (“You can buzz all you want/ They don’t hear you like me/ I’m a fly on the wall and you’re the queen of the bees”) and the music doesn’t communicate much emotion: it’s quiet, then loud, then quiet again.

I’m not sure what Jack White wants us to feel listening to this record, but it makes me feel nothing much of anything at all.

Stream: Tree on Fire From Within, Love is Selfish, A Tip from You to Me


Perhaps it is lucky for Bananarama that modern pop has leaned so heavily on the glittery 80s synth sounds that made them so irresistible the first time around. But after listening to Masquerade, their 12th studio album, I would argue that the veteran pop duo have been influenced as much as they have done the influencing.

“Forever Young” has a touch of Taylor Swift about its melodies; the punishing “Velvet Lies”, with its resigned sighs, could easily have been a Muna album track; there is even something a little Billie Eilish around the deep vocal effects on “Running with the Night”. Their last album, 2019’s In Stereo, felt more like a Veronicas record (and featured a Sugababes offcut); this one is pure disco pop.

While mainstream pop turns to vintage samples as a way of shortcutting to familiarity, Bananarama have swerved that temptation. The title track is a sparkling fever dream and when they sing “Don’t let the stardust fade”, you feel that would be a physical impossibility, at least as long as the song lasts.

There is a real regret to the album, a sort of sad smile at the things that have gone wrong in life and love – but it never leans too close to the darkness. Even the ire of the opening track, “Favourite”, about a lover who checked out of a relationship long before it was over, feels like a wry eye-roll rather than pure anger.

You can’t argue that there is a lot of variety on Masquerade; anyone not already enamoured with the processed twinkles and canned beats of this kind of pop music may find it a tiresome 45 minutes. But to still be bringing this energy and sparkle to their music after decades in the game is a rare gift – they may never reach the heady heights of their heyday again, but Bananarama have still got it.

Stream: Bad Love, Favourite, Forever Young


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