Sunday, November 16, 2008

41. White Stripes - Elephant

The whole White Stripes/Strokes/Hives thing baffled me. I suppose one could make the argument that the embracing of garage rock was in direct response to the proliferation of overproduced teeny bopper bands and flaky, yet hot, blonde singers and/or the rise in popularity of 30 year old men in nu-metal bands writhing in agony, still angry at their mothers for grounding them when they were 12. Who knows?

But the Stripes grew on me. So on the basis of just how much Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground rocks my world, I gave Elephant a try. Songs like Ball and Biscuit, I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself and The Hardest Button To Button remind me of what I first liked about rock and roll all those years ago. The spare sound and riffs are reminiscent of sitting in Pat Henley's garage on summer evenings in the 1970's, listening to the band with no name play the same songs over and over again, but enjoying every chord, every beat. The simplicity of Seven Nation Army is its beauty; there's hardly anything to the song, but yet it makes me want to do something - dance, or drum my pencil on the desk or tap my foot at least, much like the repeated chords in the Henley garage did. The band with no name's sound was born of pure desire to just play some music, and that's what I get with the Stripes.

However (there's always a however with these things), White Stripes are not the saviors of rock and roll. They are not the greatest thing since MC5. Elephant isn't so much a triumph of the simple sounds of rock and roll as it is a triumph of style over substance. The album is too simple to be anything more than a big, fat candy bar. Jack White's efforts to be everything to everyone in the re-emergence of pure rock bands is admirable; but his reliance on Meg White's mediocre drumming skills and his penchant for trying to do too much with too little overwhelms the sincerity within. It's a good, fun album. It's good background music for cleaning the house or pretending to do yardwork while you're just drinking beer and neighbor-watching or driving through rush hour traffic with one hand out the window and one hand on the horn. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's good music. It's rock and roll. But it's nothing that's going to change the world. Not even the music world.

But damn, I like it.

Favorite Song: I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself
Official Site


Solonor Rasreth said...

I do like this album a lot. I think "White Blood Cells" might be better, but this is pretty awesome. I think Jack White's collaboration with Loretta Lynn on Van Lear Rose shows better his artistry, though (probably more thanks to Loretta, but none of the other hacks in Nashville would do what he did to record her).

bran said...

Something about Jack's playing/songwriting really strikes something in me. I don't think the Stripes are the saviors of rock, and I cringe when Meg drops the pot. I get a lot from their music, though, especially Elephant. I feel like I'm a betrayer when I say that I like the Raconteurs more. But even they've got some kinks to work out.

I don't get the Hives/the Strokes, either.