Listen Up: Wednesday, May 22, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
White Stripes

Elephant (V2 Records)

By Matthew Smith

Not to brag — well, a little — but Fort Worth Weekly touted the White Stripes long before Conan, MTV, or the waterheads running Rolling Stone even heard of the band.

Not that it matters. What matters is that Meg and Jack White, the duo who goes by the name The White Stripes, became the first worthwhile band since, geez, Nirvana to break through on their own terms. Exactly why or how remains unclear.

Their music is first-rate catchy, but so is Sleater-Kinney’s and they’re not on the radio. What’s more, the Stripes’ earnest rock ’n’ blues basics seem as out of place in 2003 as the Kinks’ pastoral songs of China cups and virginity did in 1969.

Or maybe that’s the appeal — that any band would even notice, let alone, worry over the death of sweethearts or the difficulty in being a gentleman given our rather graceless and wretched times. (The fact that “I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother’s Heart” is about winning approval from a girlfriend’s mother and not something sleazy is almost enough to restore your faith in humanity.)

Here’s the thing: Even though Elephant isn’t as good as either of the band’s two previous releases, it’s still a strong contender for album of the year.

Paint-stripping thunder-of-Zeppelin guitar riffs rampage through the first three songs, culminating in the sublime schizophrenic multi-layered “There’s No Home for You Here,” before the band even stops for a breath. It’s real rock ’n’ roll, the kind you probably thought wasn’t made anymore.

The only failing is the relative paucity of the band’s softer side this time out. Sweet innocence remains, but the pickings are thinner. It’s a shame. The Stripes always did lo- and high-fi equally well.

The closest Elephant gets is a nice Burt Bacharach cover, a goofy novelty song featuring Jack, Meg, and English chanteuse Holly Golightly. (In fact, you can take the Bacharach vibe a little further and hear “In the Cold, Cold Night” in the Stripes’ “Pink Panther/Fever” medley.)

All the same, Elephant remains a solid A-effort from a band still on the rise.



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