label: V2 / BMG
our score: 4.5 out of 5.0
The White Stripes
sudden rise to fame with their third album, White Blood Cells
over the past two years put them as the most critically-acclaimed
of the new "the" band movement, as well as the most
popular. While The Strokes saw their sun rise and set fairly quickly,
The Stripes took years of work and fanbase-building before they
finally broke. And, as rumors of their fourth album, Elephant
began to surface ("Meg's going to sing!" / "Jacks'
going to have a guitar solo!" / "Holly Golightly's guesting!"),
it became evident that, should Elephant outperform White
Blood Cells sonically, it would be the album to
solidify Jack and Meg Whites' position in rock history.
Elephant has succeeded in surpassing White Blood
Cells (and basically everything else they, and just about
everything anyone else in recent history has done). And, while
Elephant isn't a departure from The White Stripes' tried
and true "guitar and drum" minimalist blues / garage
rock formula, it is a nearly perfect end result.
opener and first single, "Seven Nation Army" starts
things out well enough with a simple bass line from Jack and a
steady drum beat from Meg. But what's most notable here, and throughout
the album (even more than usual), is Jack's songwriting. There's
a bit of innocence underlying just about everything he says, as
well as how he says it, but there's also a harsh sting of reality
in this innocence. Again, rather than falling prey to the tired
rock and roll cliche's of "rocking out and getting wasted"
found so often in similar-sounding acts, The White Stripes stretch
into the underpinnings of simple love and emotion.
Then again, Elephant
couldn't quite be considered a step forward for the band if it
were simply a rehash of past glories. And even though "Hypnotise"
follows unbelievably closely in the footsteps of "Fell In
Love With a Girl," there is something different going on
here. "In the Cold Cold Night," for example, we find
Meg's meekish voice at the forefront; her first turn at vocals,
although not groundbreaking, is just as necessary here as a bit
of a balancer than anything else. Not to mention there's something
quite sweet about the moment.
The album's highest
point, however, is the extensive rocker (7+ minutes) of "Ball
and Biscuit." It's The White Stripes at their rock-iest,
and features some of the gnarliest guitar work Jack's ever done.
With its classic blues feel, and overt sexual overtones, it's
as raw and gritty as the band gets and it's at this point that
you feel you can just about reach out and grab the music as it
crashes through your speakers.
Still, many positive
words have been spoken about Elephant. So much praise
has been poured on to it, that there's a definite risk of backlash
from those who may feel a bit misled. To read reviews elsewhere,
one may think this is the end all, be all, album of the year.
And this is where I have to disagree. While Elephant
is truly an amazing album, and transcends simple categorization
of The White Stripes as "one of those 'the' bands,"
I can't help but feel the heapings of praise have been a bit too
much. In fact, I can't help but feel the majority of the critical
praise lies in the fact that many critics have been using Elephant
as an excuse to say once and for all, "I told you so!"
There's a bit of
a gimmick to The White Stripes, and all the pilings of critical
praise aren't going to make up for the fact that eventually Elephant,
like White Blood Cells can get to feel a bit boring and
repetive. Not to say Elephant is undeserving of praise,
but you'll not find me saying The White Stripes are the only band
that matters right now.
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...
7. You've Got Her In Your Pocket
8. Ball And Biscuit
9. The Hardest Button To Button
10. Little Acorns
12. The Air Near My Fingers
13. Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine
14. It's True That We Love One Another