Thursday, July 19, 2007

Icky Thump by the White Stripes

It's quite funny, really. When the White Stripes released their breakthrough record, White Blood Cells, they were hailed as the saviours of rock, reviving the notion that music, stripped bare, was the real essence of ROCK! Now, of course, with keeping it real de rigeur for any young band (except Muse), The White Stripes have once again defied fashion and currency by making what could most easily be defined as a prog rock record. The opening, and titular, track is exhibit A in this argument. With cacophonic keyboards, grinding metal guitar, and of course Jack White's most infectious riff, all hammering over the top of Meg's Bonham-esque drumming, the song seems to be an anecdote about a strange encounter in a Mexican town, while passing commentary about US immigration policy. Pretty proggy stuff. Perhaps this is why previous records were made in less than a week (this, by contrast, was recorded over 3 weeks in Nashville, a veritable eternity in the White Stripes' universe); to stop Jack going a little mental.
There are certainly more traditionally White-ish tracks on the record, such as 'You Don't Know What Love Is (You Do As You're Told)' and 'Bone Broke', but these seem to be something around the filler level, becuase it's when the band's imagination kicks into overdrive that Icky Thump really hits its straps, most notably on the wonderfully cheeky 'Rag and Bone', where Jack and Meg play thieving (or opportunistic) vagabonds stripping pop culture of its trinkets, ostensibly to put it to better use than it currently is being.
After the release of Get Behind Me Satan in 2005, the White Stripes announced a new look (absent the lollipop outfits), a new sound (more than three separate instruments) and a new approach to music (layers, production and variety), and the music world shivered a little bit. The White Stripes were supposed to be paragons of the new rock, simple, straight up and thumpingly awesome. Suddenly, they were willfully creative and difficult. Of course, there was a backlash, and diehard fans hoped for a return to the old days. It was in vain. The White Stripes, now officially veterans of the scene, have decided to buck any and every trend, and are now pioneering a new scene, a revival of the other Led Zeppelin, zany, overblown and great fun. And if Icky Thump is any indication, there is plenty more where that came from.
4 stars


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