The White Stripes


Perhaps the best thing to emerge from the neo-garage-rock movement Stateside, Detroit duo the White Stripes continue their ascent with the highly anticipated Elephant, featuring more bombastic mutations of country blues and ’70s rock. The Stripes stand firmly in the tradition of primitive-blues-influenced rock (echoes of Led Zep and Lightnin’ Hopkins) but blow enough punk snot and fun, voodoo-child lyrics (“It’s quite possible that I’m your third man girl, but it’s a fact that I’m the seventh son”) to sound fresh and vital.

Guitarist/vocalist Jack White sprays maniacal vocals (part Ray Davies, part T. Rex) and crunchy, distorted guitar like an angry skunk, while ex-wife Meg White bangs the drums and sings solo for the first time (“In the Cold, Cold, Night” reminds me of Mo Tucker with its mixture of childlike naïveté and ironic, hipster cool).

The Stripes have also added much needed bottom line to this eight-track London recording, as well as extra vocal dubs and electric piano. The results are a fuller, more diverse sounding effort than the duo’s usual stripped-down fare (though that’s here too).

Favorite tracks include the raucous “Black Math,” a cover of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David ballad “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself,” and the closer, an acoustic ménage à trois between Jack, Meg, and guest vocalist Holly Golightly, all trading lovable insults. As the song finishes, Golightly says, “Jolly good … let’s celebrate.” Celebrate, indeed—this is one of the better mainstream rock albums of the year.