Thursday, August 7, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Elephant, by The White Stripes

In the early 2000's, raw bluesy garage rock was beginning to make a rather large comeback. One of the bands at the forefront of this movement was none other than the dynamic duo that was The White Stripes, which was comprised of singer/guitarist Jack White and his wife/ex-wife (though at the time they were pretending to be siblings) drummer/keyboardist/vocalist Meg White. Having put out three well received albums already by 2002, the band was looking to keep the momentum going and get even further. This lead them to produce one of the absolute greatest albums of their career: Elephant.

Elephant was recorded in only two weeks at Toe Rag Studios in London during April of 2002. Jack White made many bold moves during the process by not only producing the album himself but also recording on an 8-track tape machine and using equipment made before the 1960's. This ended up giving the album a much more raw and vintage feel, which worked to the band's advantage because upon release it was very well received by critics and fans alike when released on April 1st, 2003. Its rawness combined with Jack White's profound lyrics gave many people exactly what they were looking for.

Now anyone who knows The White Stripes knows I would not be able to get away with reviewing Elephant without discussing this particular track. It's one that continues to get tons of radio airplay even to this day and even has people not so much into the band rocking out. This song is Seven Nation Army. I have to say, for being such a simple repetitive tune it is surprisingly catchy. It starts off with a VERY low tuned guitar riff that cycles through all the verses of the song. All it is is Jack cycling down the E-minor pentatonic scale. Then, Meg comes in with a stomping drum rhythm. These elements combined while simple create something ghostly and at times powerful. White's unique falsettos definitely contribute to that vibe as well.

This next track is one I feel gets overlooked far too much and I feel it's a shame. Ball and a Biscuit in my opinion is the best track on Elephant because it really shows Jack getting back to his traditional blues roots. While simple and straightforward, the song also features Jack just noodling around and making the most he possibly can out of a 12 bar pattern. Plus, even though he isn't actually singing in the song he really brings back a lot of classical blues lyrical elements such as being a seventh son of a seventh son and cocaine; elements that artists like Willie Dixon would use. The solos and jam sessions in the middle and end of the song are absolutely fantastic. Jack really shows what he can do and does NOT hold back. In a way it also reminds me of The Lemon Song, by Led Zeppelin but it is still very much its own song.

Overall I am extremely impressed with Elephant. I had always been a bit skeptical about listening to The White Stripes because I figured they were just another popular alternative band. However, when I kept hearing and reading about what a good blues guitarist Jack White was I figured I would give the band's best known album a listen. It is definitely highly acclaimed for good reason. I was blown away by the raw bluesiness of it along with the honesty of the lyrics. Plus, the album explores some other genres as well and Meg gets to show off her vocal and keyboard chops at a couple points. I would have loved to have reviewed the album track by track so I could go into all of them, but unfortunately I have no time to do that and I doubt you want to read all that. Anyway, if you haven't bought this album you should. It's worth every penny.

Elephant, by The White Stripes receives 5 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

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 a 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

Buy the album on Amazon:

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