Jack White, Blunderbuss
In my view, Jack White has always had a solo career.
Even with Meg White by his side, it was clear that Mr. White marched to the beat of his own drum. The White Stripes' breakup was therefore the least disappointing of 2011; I was much more saddened by the demise of Bright Eyes and LCD Soundsystem, knowing that ol' Jack would be up to something else in no time. Unfortunately, his first truly "all by himself" release, Blunderbuss, was about as well aimed as the inaccurate, old-fashioned firearm for which its named.
Like the Stripes' album White Blood Cells, Blunderbuss is scattered with cutesy songs that hardly form a whole. It's White's version of a mid-life crisis, filled with cheesy, half-assed ballads and sappy vows against love (his band wasn't the only thing broke up last year -- he also got divorced). "Sixteen Saltines" is the only track that maintains itself, but it probably won't be long before its remixed by Glitch Mob for the next G.I. Joe trailer. Yawn.
In the end, however, Blunderbuss probably wasn't as disappointing as when White abruptly stormed off stage at Radio City in September. In all reality, White will find something else exciting and fresh to do next. Maybe he'll produce another single with Insane Clown Posse. That'd be something. -- Troy Farah
Fear Factory, The Industrialist
Back in its early days -- circa Soul of a New Machine -- Fear Factory's sound was disturbingly fresh, a weighty but haunting noise. The band's blend of crushing metal and cyborg fascination always leaned toward industrial, so it made sense that the band's 2012 effort, The Industrialist, was highly anticipated.
Here's the thing -- it's not a horrible album, sound-wise, but it falls flat. The decision to anchor the album with a haute concept story is to blame. The Industrialist is supposed represent the mechanical, technological, and scientific advances through the industrial age. In the story, the automaton becomes sentient as it collects memories with each passing day, and through slow observation the automaton gains the will to exist.
Unfortunately, the concept as a whole just did not live up to the hype. The album may not stray far from Fear Factory's traditional sound, but for a group that has spent nearly a decade attempting to redefine itself, one would think there would be more of an impact from the music. -- Lauren Wise