White Stripes: Elephant (V2)

It is as elegant as rock can get—grainy, threatening, and with a melody that will linger for quite some time.

The Stripes appeared like a car on a darkened highway over the last two years. With each release, those headlights became brighter. On this, their fourth release, the light is blinding. Last year’s White Blood Cells had effectively broken the band to most of mainstream America, and now Elephant arrives with a lot of hype and anticipation.

Elephant continues on the template of less-is-more, classic rhythm and blues that is pre-1960 (and I mean really pre-). Thirteen of the 14 songs are composed by Jack White (in the case of “Hypnotized,” recomposed, since it is basically set to the tune of “Secret Agent Man”). The album tends to follow the same pattern we heard on White Blood Cells —sweet song (“You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket”), rock scorcher (“Black Math”), blues ass-shaker (“Ball and Biscuit”)—none of them exceptional, but certainly better than most of the stuff out there. However, there are several standouts.

On the album’s opener and current single, “Seven Nation Army,” there is what sounds like a bass (Jack swears it is an octave guitar), which adds a bit of roundness to their sound. It is as elegant as rock can get—grainy, threatening, and with a melody that will linger for quite some time. “There’s no Home for You Here” is a sonic blast which offers the Whites’ best take on T-Rex, and they handle the duty beautifully. “In the Cold, Cold, Night” is Meg’s turn at singing lead. Her voice is reed thin, but in this situation it works pretty well. The carefully chosen material is exceptional, and engineer Liam Watson does everything to give Meg the aura of Peggy Lee.

Several songs (“Little Acorns,” “Well it’s True That We Love one Another”) really don’t work, and this is one of those touchy areas for a band like the Stripes. They are supposed to be stripped down, guitar and drums for the most part; gimmicks, even those that are homage to classic songs, don’t need to be in here. Compare them to “Girl, You Have no Faith in Medicine” and the difference is obvious. This is where the Stripes excel: a brilliant 3:17 song with little more than Jack, Meg, and a whole lot of attitude. It truly carries the spirit of what makes the band great.

The best track on the album is the only song not composed by the band. “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” is a Burt Bacharach/ Hal David song best know for the Dusty Springfield version, though Elvis Costello recorded an amazing live version at the Live Stiffs concert/album in 1978. The simplicity of the Stripes’ version showcases Jack Whites’ voice and points out that great lyrics can help any band, even one as good as the White Stripes.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply