The White Stripes
T.J. Simon's #2 album for 2003
First Appeared at The Music Box, September 2003, Volume 10, #9
Written by T.J. Simon
Depending who you believe, Jack and Meg White are either a) husband and wife, b) brother and sister, or c) ex-husband and ex-wife who, for whatever reason, get a kick out of making people think they are brother and sister. Whatever the real story, the Detroit duo known as The White Stripes sits at the forefront of the recent garage rock resurgence. The new garage rock, much like the old garage rock, is no-frills music that can be played and recorded just about anywhere without the help of massive studio tweaking or the trendy Pro-Tools software that has now become commonplace.
Elephant, The White Stripesí latest release, features Meg White on drums (and occasional vocals) and Jack White on lead vocals and everything else. Jack is an awesome guitar player and multi-instrumentalist ó perhaps one of the best working today. Thereís no better evidence of this than the addictively menacing bass line from the radio single Seven Nation Army and the hard rock guitar shredding on Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine. Jackís falsetto vocals are often cited as being influenced by Robert Plant, as heard on the bluesy, Led Zep-ish Ball and Biscuit. Throughout Elephant, the band draws upon the influences of U.K. classic rock, but donít call Jack and Meg a retro act. Even without the assistance of modern studio tweaking, the sound is crisp, fresh, and contemporary with additional warmth unheard on most present-day recordings.
Elephant is indisputably a hard rock album, but there are enough touches of sweetness to make it palatable for just about everybody. The standout track is I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Motherís Heart, a piano and guitar-driven ballad that recalls the sound of early Rod Stewart (back when he rocked). Itís an achingly lovable, anxiety-ridden slacker anthem oozing with insecurity and passion. With absorbing results, Jack also wears his heart on his sleeve on the cover of Burt Bacharachís I Just Donít Know What to Do with Myself . Soft and hard rock come together on The Air Near My Fingers as Jack lays down jazz club vocals over heavy guitar chords. He also passes the microphone to Meg on In the Cold, Cold Night, and he enjoys a musical threesome with Meg and British avant-garde recording artist Holly Golightly on the playful concluding number Well Itís True That We Love One Another.
If you look past the gimmicks surrounding The White Stripes ó including the red and white costumes and the ambiguous relationship between the bandís principals ó what remains is great rock ínĎ roll. Elephant is a record youíll love from the start and appreciate more and more with each listen. Jack White is a creative genius whose vision, talent, and artistry have propelled this CD into an early frontrunner for the best release of the year.
46th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Alternative Music Album
46th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Rock Song
Seven Nation Army
Elephant is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box