White Stripes – Elephant

‘Elephant’, released in 2003 by The White Stripes is in the Top 10 best records of the last 15 years. No doubt. Their previous album ‘White Blood Cells‘ had brought them mainstream success on a smaller scale and set them up for bigger things. They delivered with ‘Elephant‘, and album with which they used 60’s recording equipment and no computers. They also recorded in a ‘non modern studio’. This was all to capture the sound and feel of the album and it worked with fantastic results. Not that I think awards matter much, ‘Elephant‘ did however win Best Alternative Music Album at The Grammys. ‘Seven Nation Army’ also won Best Rock Song the same year. The album itself is a rock album at heart, but there is s blend of blues, punk and garage. It contains some of the best guitar work this side of the 00’s, and the drums are solid too, they play their part.

The major draw for me with this record is the sound. In doing my research, I found that the way The White Stripes record is call ‘low-fidelity’, in that they don’t use modern equipment. Great, just listen to the results. In saying that, I think it’s easier to talk about a record like this as a whole rather than pull apart each song. We know the big hits, ‘Seven Nation Army’ and ‘The Hardest Button To Button’, but songs such as ‘Ball And Biscuit’, ‘There’s No Home For You Here’ and ‘Hypontize’ also carry with them this raw sound. There’s an originality to it because it was done in the modern era when all else was aiming for a clean cut sound. Obviously the recording methods were used in previous years too, but I’m just talking about the present. They didn’t seem to apply too many rules or restrictions on this record, the sound changes multiple times through some tracks and they also left space for a softer sound such as the lovely ‘In The Cold, Cold Night’ about a woman who is in love with a man and wanting him despite being told to stay away. Meg White might not have the best voice but it’s bang on for a track like this, and I think it stands out because of how desperate she makes the character sound while singing. Following ‘..Cold, Cold Night’ there are two more downbeat tracks in ‘I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother’s Heart’ and ‘You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket’, the latter being Jack White’s version of ‘..Cold, Cold Night’. These three tracks calm the album down after its rushed intro and sets you up for more blistering noise.

‘Little Acorns’ is a track worth going out and listening to right now. It opens with a little story of a desperate soul who finds hope through a squirrel and their nuts. Ahem, the song then kicks in and rips through 3 minutes of some pretty fucking awesome guitar work. “Take all your problems and rip them apart“. ‘The Air Near My Fingers’ and ‘Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine’ stick to the formula and bring us near the end of the record. ‘The Air Near My Fingers’ is catchy as hell yet simple, and ‘Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine’ is a ripper that might remind you of ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’. This one is a mosh pits dream where you can also hear Jack White giving it full ‘Jack White’. The closing track is ‘Well It’s True That We Love One Another’ and this is a funny one. They had been playing the siblings card which fooled a lot of people and the song opens with “I love Jack White like a little brother”. I’m sure they were just having the craic but Jack White is also notorious for keeping his private life to himself. So I’m sure there was an element of mind your own business about it.

Elephant’ wasn’t the first White Stripes record I had bought. I was a fan of their other records but of course, this one does climb to the top of the pile. It’s a shame that they split but I have hope that they will tour again and I’m sure it would be a hell of a show. I’ve seen Jack White live before but I think a lot of people would have had the same feeling as I did, that it just wasn’t the same. Regardless, they made some great records and left behind a trail of music for other bands to catch up to. ‘Elephant’ leads the parade.

G.M

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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