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Friday, October 07, 2005

 

#1) The White Stripes - Elephant (2003)

When Jack and Meg White released Red Blood Cells and jumped to the top of the "new garage rock" scene, few had any idea of what they had in store as a follow-up. The sheer number of gimmicks they seemed to have (colour scheme, no bass guitar, the whole she'-my-sister/she's-my-wife thing) lead many to believe that these guys would be a flash in the pan. They couldn't have been more wrong.

Elephant kept most of the gimmickry of the previous releases, but turned it on its head, in service of the stripped down blues rock sound that Jack was going for (I'll leave Meg aside for this, as her simplistic drumming serves its purpose beautifully, but leaves little else to comment on). Seven Nation Army (which teases us with what seems like an opening bass line, but is actually a heavily pedalled down guitar) opens the album with a blistering and savage rip on the fame that the Whites received from Red Blood Cells, with Jack threatening to quit music and head to Kansas to be a farmer. It's an interesting mission statement to say the least.

The strength of this album is its incredible diversity, with Jack showcasing an almost limitless range of styles; his voice soars into Freddie Mercury falsetto in There's No Home For You Here, a cruel poison pen letter to an old flame. He find room in a Burt Bacharach song for a blazing solo, and throws down to challenge for Jimi Hendrix's throne in Ball And Biscuit. It's a visceral experience listening to this album, as it careens from song to song showing off just what White is capable of. It's as close a thing as a virtuoso performance over an entire album that we're going to get, and that it's combined with real songs (dedicated in the liner notes to “the death of the sweetheart), and not just noodling makes it that much better. For that, it's the best thing I've heard all decade.


     


 
 

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