I like a lot of The White Stripes' music, but I've honestly never listened to an album from start to finish. I figured starting with the big hit would be a smart way to go. Thanks to my cousin Christine for suggesting to do a write up on this pair, considering she's minorly obsessed with Jack.
Wikipedia cracks me up sometimes. I actually really love a lot of what's up there, because the information's not exactly horrible. But the descriptions are just funny sometimes. The White Stripes have been together since 1997, but "rose to prominence in 2002, as part of the garage rock revival scene." *giggle* Seriously though, if it's not obvious in general: this band works incredibly hard. Er, worked. They 'professionally split' in February of this year, after 6 studio albums, 1 live album, 2 EPs, 1 concert film, 1 tour doc, 26 singles, and 14 music videos. Oh, and their last 3 albums won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.
They went pretty old school for the recording of this album, using an 8-track tape machine and gear that dated back form before the 1960s. No computers used. *glorious heaven light shines down* It's loosely a concept album based on "dealing with the death of a sweetheart," with only 1 song on the US released not written by Jack. I'm super stoked to get into this one as a whole now, so let's get to it.
Let's go ahead and kick things off with the video I know introduced me to this band, the video for "Seven Nation Army":
"Black Math" is the second track. Ok, I get the garage rock comment a little better now, because that's what this one is bringing. It's a little difficult from listening, but the lyrics are pretty sweet and independent: "maybe I'll put my love on ice and teach myself, maybe that'll be nice."
"There's No Home For You Here" was the last single released from this album, but there's no chart positioning reported for it. It's very different and I can't hear it being a radio hit, even on the most alternative stations. It moves in rhythms and is jarring to the normal ear. This is the first one I can really tell there's an unpolished nature to the album in general. I'm conflicted on this one - I like about half of it - that's how broken up the music is.
Something I didn't expect to hear on this one was a cover, but we get a Burt Bacharach/Hal David song, "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself," along with a music video of a pole dancing Kate Moss (you've been warned):
Meg takes lead on her one and only song on the album, "In The Cold, Cold Night." And so far, it's probably my favorite song so far. It's extremely simple and this is where that blues sort of feel takes center stage for their sound. There's still something about the guitar that's very clearly White Stripes still though.
"I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother's Heart" is the next track up, and has more piano than I would have expected. It's an incredibly honest song, and I'm not sure I've ever heard one on this subject before. It's exactly about what the title implies. He's trying here, he's really trying.
Dude, the first track in 3 that doesn't start with "I." Sorry, these are things you notice when you have to type every song title into the search bar on YouTube just to listen. Anywhos, "You've Got Her In Your Packet" continues this stripped down, gentler portion of the album. I'm going to make a statement here that may not jive for some people: this sounds like a much more mature lyrically, but musically similar, version of a Beatles song. It's actually a pretty interesting story - it moves; there isn't just one idea, it evolves slightly in what it's talking about.
"Ball and Biscuit"...? Okay, let's do this. Picking up the pace a little with that guitar (*swoon* by the way, there's a rock/blues feel). The whole song has an old blues feel to it, if for nothing more than his way of speaking lyrics against such a musically interesting background.
"The Hardest Button to Button" is the next track, as well as another single, complete with this video:
"Little Acorns" starts with an intro voice (book voice from H2$ anyone?), giving us a story of hope. Then it gets into the more rockin' part of the song, and lyrically it's actually still pretty much about making more out of your life: "be like the squirrel" after all. (See, you have to listen to the song now to figure out what the hell I'm talking about.)
There are a lot of super trippy videos on YouTube for the next song, "Hypnotize." It's very much like the first couple of songs on the album, and lends itself to images fitting of the title. We're back to purely rocking out here.
"The Air Near My Fingers" doesn't stray too far from that same feeling. Apparently the middle of the album was our slow-down portion, and this is they're way of finishing strong? Maybe, we'll see how the other tracks play out. There's a cool kind of beat to this I guess, it's just lacking much of anything grabbing enough.
"Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine" takes that rock amp up even higher. Jack's back to yelling more than talking or singing. I have to say, this makes me want to rewind about 5 tracks or so back. I get their sound, and I appreciate what he's doing with that guitar, but that solo is about all that's keeping me holding on to this one right now.
We finish up this album with "It's True That We Love One Another." This si the only song that wasn't recorded with the rest in a two-week period in April 2002 at BBC. It was instead done in November of that year at Toe Rag Studio. And it's totally different from the rest of the album. Bringing Holly Golightly in as an additional voice to tell the story is really crazy interesting. She's got quite a background herself in music, dating from the late 60's on in the UK. It's just an adorably put together song to end things out on a light note.
Stuff I wouldn't mind hearing again:
- "Seven Nation Army" - YouTube
- "In The Cold, Cold Night" - YouTube
- "I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother's Hear" - YouTube
- "You've Got Her In You're Pocket" - YouTube
- "Little Acorns" - YouTube
So 5/14 makes it seem like very few, but I enjoyed the overall sound of the band. I don't think they're a group that you can listen to a single track casually as part of a playlist. I think they need to be listened to all on their own without interruption by other band's sound. The White Stripes has to be its own experience. And it's a great one at that.
Take the songs picked rating with a grain of salt; there are some things that just need their own separate listen, and this is one of them. Elephant is a really great album all on its own, and this band does things you don't hear normally. It's fascinating.
What're you thinking? Care and share!!