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The White Stripes – Elephant [Album Review]

April 29, 2012

Seven Nation Army / Black Math / There’s No Home For You Here /I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself / Cold Cold Night / I Want To Be With The Boy / You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket / Ball And Biscuit / Hardest Button To Button / Little Acorns / Hypnotize / Air Near My Fingers / Girl You Have No Faith In Medicine / It’s True That We Love One Another

Jack White has apparently been quoted as saying, “If people find out everything about us, then we’re finished” (the irony) – the kind of comment that leads to speculation. What could this everything be? Are The White Stripes really the Milli Vanilli of garage rock? Is there some terrible secret hidden in Jack and Megs closet that we don’t know about? We’ve already had the whole thing about are they, or are they not, brother/sister. We’ve had the whole marriage thing. We’ve had plenty of hype and the inevitable reaction against that hype. Does any of this even matter? Perhaps Jack White is going to pull off his mask at any moment, to reveal that he’s really been Bryan Adams having a bit of a laugh all along? hmm…

Ok, so probably not. Anyways, there’s one song that I never much  cared for  ‘Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground’? Well, ‘There’s No Home For You Here’ repeats melodies from that song in places – but there’s much else going on besides. The whole, overall effect renders ‘Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground’ completely redundant – they’ve moved on, got better. A complaint surrounding The White Stripes has been their lack of bass guitar sounds! Oh, we’ve got something for you here if you were one of those complaining ones. I know I was…. Anyways, apparently IT ISN’T an actual bass guitar that’s being played on ‘Seven Nation Army’, but it sure as hell sounds like one (Ahem Digitech whammy pedal) So, ‘bass’ and Megs drums. An urgent energy and atmosphere, mentions of the British Queen in passing…. This album was recorded in London. That’s kind of nice, given that the UK music press were really responsible for breaking The White Stripes into the big time. The hype may have been hard to believe, but it did get them noticed, and that reflected back to the American press. And yeah, ‘Seven Nation Army’ is the best opening song on any of the four White Stripes albums so far. Going back and forth from the bass sound to astonishing genuine guitar sounds with shouted, raw vocals. Works for me. And, hell yeah! That ‘bass’ sounds groovy as hell. Count me in as one pleased listener. ‘Black Math’ sounds fast, raw – all the usual White Stripes elements are here well Jack White elements, but it just sounds better. There’s a squealing, almost electronic sounding section at one point. And, it follows the opening song, joins the third song – and we really DO have ourselves the best White Stripes so far.

And, holy crap Like, groovy! The White Stripes cover song is one of my very favourite songs, from the immortal Bacharach And David writing team. ‘I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ manages to suit The White Stripes down to the ground, and utterly convinces in a lo-fi raw rock guitar with no bass style. Sigh! Jack sounds really great here, especially with the high vocal parts. This is now officially my favourite Jack White vocal performance, bar none. And, god! I used to complain many a time…. The other ‘White’, Meg, sings the fifth song here. She really wants TO BE Moe Tucker from The Velvet Underground, doesn’t she? This isn’t a shining moment at all to any of the opening songs, but it works to help the album and its good to see Jack sharing out his talent. You see, this album has variation in sound and style all through it. By god, it even has bass guitar sounds! A couple of songs arrive that could have come straight from ‘White Blood Cells’, so if you’re a huge fan of that particular album, then there’s something here reassuring for you. On the otherhand, ‘Ball And Biscuit’ is seven minutes long. Grinding and dirty with about 1000 guitar solos,  the kind of song that could easily have replaced half of the songs on ‘White Blood Cells’ quite happily. ‘The Hardest Button To Button’ is a typical White Stripes song title, includes a fuzzy sound resembling a bass sound, but we know that it isn’t a bass, really. Still, great song! ‘Little Acorns’ includes a spoken introduction and really, very squealing guitar. ‘Air Near My Fingers’ resembles ‘White Blood Cells’, only played faster, with more confidence. ‘Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine’ is hugely fun, with shaking tambourine sounds and all taken at 100 miles an hour.

Choosing to record this album live, in just a matter of days has really paid off. They sound like they went into the studio full of beans, and confidence which i can imagine they did with the amount of classic songs prepared to be wrote. Jack White is pictured holding a cricket bat on the front cover, and the closing song is a little hokey and jokey – including a guest vocalist, along with Jack and Meg – trading lines, and having fun with the already growing White Stripes history and story. It’s not a highlight here, but it’s so silly, I’ll live with it…. and? A fine album overall. Their best yet? Sure, why not. It is, actually.

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