Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The big catch-up 5: The White Stripes


So The White Stripes are back, and if the reviews of Icky Thump were to be believed, back on form. But hold on a minute – since when did it become received wisdom that Get Behind Me Satan was not much cop? I say rubbish, because I still love that album – in fact it’s endured much better for me than Elephant. I’m sure I’m not the only one to hit skip when I hear that intro to Seven Nation Army. Over-familiarity can breed contempt. Or at least boredom.

Anyway, whether or not Icky Thump is better than Get Behind… is not the issue. It is different for sure. There’s much more of Jack’s guitar wielding than the last outing. Their previous experimenting with marimbas and the like is replaced by full-on blues guitar squalls, which make no concessions to being radio-friendly tunes. And it’s all the better for it. Right from the start with the title track, the album just sets out to rock harder than ever. And it totally succeeds.

I love the way that Jack and Meg don’t seem to give a damn about musical fashion and just get on with doing their own thing. No day-glo for them. Oh no, it’s pearly king and queen outfits for the front cover. Says a lot really. In fact, maybe with the exception of Arcade Fire (who aren’t quite so big), The White Stripes are the only major unit-shifting, arena and festival headlining band out there at the moment doing anything genuinely singular and interesting. It’s good to have them up there in charts populated by so much dreck.

Here’s a bit of a correction as well – to my ‘best albums of the year so far’ from last week. When I wrote that, I hadn’t really lived with this album enough to fairly recommend it. But several plays later, I’m convinced this really should be up there. Not sure which record it would replace, but it totally slays so many young pretenders out there.

Even the indulgences of this album (bagpipes on Prickly Thorn and St Andrew, supposedly harking to Jack’s Scottish heritage) are tolerable, even engaging. The cover of Patti Page’s Conquest (for more on the original, see Song, By Toad) is brilliantly mad enough to be up there in the pantheon of songs that The Stripes have made their own (see also I Just Don’t Know What to do With Myself, Jolene etc), and though the whole album is great, the run of songs from the full-on axe assault of Rag and Bone to the rollocking country blues of Effect and Cause, is absolutely stunning and probably surpasses any collection of five songs on any album this. Phew. Glad I’ve caught up properly with this one then.

Download: The White Stripes - Rag and Bone
Download: The White Stripes - Effect and Cause

Buy Icky Thump. Yes! Do it (if you haven’t already)!

1 comment:

MOJOPHENIA said...

Thanks for the tracks , Just the push I needed to go out and purchase the plastic :O)
Regards
Andy