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I am Salty The Beast. I am what you might call a Renaissance man, meaning I find interest in most every medium. I love watching movies, listening to music, writing music, playing video games, making videos, etc.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

ALBUM REVIEW: The White Stripes "Elephant"


Track Listing:
1. Seven Nation Army*
2. Black Math
3. There’s No Home For You Here
4. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself
5. In The Cold, Cold Night
6. I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother’s Heart
7. You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket
8. Ball and Biscuit
9. The Hardest Button To Button*
10. Little Acorns ^
11. Hypnotize
12. The Air Near My Fingers
13. Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine*
14. Well It’s True That We Love One Another

Detroit’s most prominent rock and roll twosome The White Stripes already had a decent sized fanbase before 2003, but it was not until Elephant that the group hit the peak of their popularity. The album was received with incredible praise on all fronts, made it on a few Best Albums of the Year lists and even won the group not one, but two Grammys. And when the video for “Seven Nation Army” arrived, the song became a huge hit with everyone. The album itself is considered to be a landmark in the garage rock revival scene. Maybe even its pinnacle.

While I find some of the overwhelming acclaim a bit iffy, I do think that this is The White Stripes’ best recording to date. This may be due to the fact that for the first time, they seemed like more than just two people jamming along to two-minute sessions. Don’t get me wrong; I like their other work. But this album just feels like they set larger expectations for themselves; larger than any other two-person band has ever set. For the first time, Jack and Meg White reached their full capabilities and potential.

In addition to “Seven Nation Army,” we receive quite a few other angst-ridden jams. For example, near the end of the album are the uncharacteristically up-tempo “Hypnotize” and “Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine.” “Hypnotize,” just as the song title implies, incorporates an addictive guitar riff that is like a very heavy Beach Boys tune. While I am still trying the relevance of the lyrics themselves, “Medicine” combines a bluesy chord progression with some punk rock sensibilities, along with some natural guitar harmonics to punctuate the breaks. “Black Math” is an odd little three-minute trip in which Jack combines two unalike guitar riffs (they even have different tempos) and even experiments with the task of a guitar solo.

The kind-of-epic “Ball and Biscuit” runs just over seven minutes with a mellow and bluesy guitar riff. Every once in a while, Jack increases the distortion level to an 11 (don’t you just love Spinal Tap references?) to separate the verses from the free-sections. While the length is noticeable (especially when the next longest song is a mere four-minutes), it does not necessarily take away from its enjoyment value. And one that I have particularly been enjoying lately is “There’s No Home For You Here.” It reminds me of “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” from White Blood Cells, in that the main guitar riff is distorted and simple, while the verses take a much quieter route that builds up to the chorus.

There are few surprises sprinkled throughout the album as well. “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” takes a much less abrasive approach to garage rock than one would come to expect from the group. And get this; “The Hardest Button To Button,” another popular single, actually has a bass AND guitar line. Yeah, I know other songs on the album include a bass line, but in this one, it stands out as one of the key features. “I Want To Be The Boy That Warms Your Mother’s Heart” is a largely piano-based number with some great lyrics and “You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket” takes the form of a sweet acoustic ballad. Meg even takes a shot at lead vocals on “In The Cold, Cold Night,” one of the album’s more dark and haunting tunes.

Closing out Elephant is a humorous collaborative effort between Jack, Meg and Holly Golightly titled “Well It’s True That We Love One Another.” Nearly every track on this album set with me better than alright (the only one I still do not understand at all is “Little Acorns”) and they are all highly memorable. It is not quite a perfect overall album, but for The White Stripes, they accomplished a huge feat in drawing a mainstream audience to their scattered, do-it-yourself type of songwriting. There is also an accomplishment in progressing that style to a much higher level than before.

VERDICT:
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