Elephant- The White Stripes

Elephant,_The_White_StripesRelease Year: 2003

Rating: 9.5/10

This is often considered the greatest White Stripes record and considering that this is their major label debut which made them critical darlings of the music scene, it’s hard to disagree. While their previous album helped the band get more attention by mainstream media, this album completely launched them full force into it. Almost completely abandoning their Blues roots and borrowing more from garage rock influences, this release is probably the easiest to pick up listen to. And as usual, it shows off Jack’s insane musical skills.

Of course, the album opens with the one White Stripes song everyone knows: “Seven Nation Army.” I have no idea what this song is about, but I know that the title comes from what Jack used to call the Salvation Army as a kid. But it doesn’t matter what the song is about because the riff is where its at. It’s the simplest thing Jack could play, yet it’s so awesome. The low key riff that isn’t provided by a bass really gives the song this dangerous tone, like something bad is about to happen. It’s crazy to think that the riff is the same thing over and over until the break where he makes it a little more intricate. It’s an amazing song that is one of the band’s best.

“Black Math” is another great song with a notable guitar riff. In fact, the jumping, playful riff is what makes the song so energetic and fun. The song also has this interesting school/math motif, but I guess it makes sense with the title. Also, there’s a little more of a Blues sound found here, but unlike some of their songs in the past, it doesn’t take over here. Things get pretty cold with the next track “There’s No Home For You Here.” Jack sounds harsh and mean as he screams “There’s no home for you here girl, go away.” As for the sound, it has an increasing volume effect: it’s hush during the verses with Jack singing louder and louder as he gets closer to the chorus and when the chorus hits everything gets louder. During one of these moments everything stops except for White singing “Ahh” and feedback humming in the background. It’s really stirring and alarming.

Just like other White Stripes albums, all the songs here are awesome. White cooly covers the Tommy Hunt song “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself,” that finds the singer sounding heartbroken lamenting how he can’t have any fun over a riff that dances between loud and quiet. “In the Cold, Cold Night” has Meg take over on vocals and while she doesn’t have a fantastic voice, her mellow singing works very well for the cool sounding song. A very calming guitar riff plays throughout and it sounds like it’s sneaking throughout the song. You can actually picture someone tip-toeing while this plays. Another great song is “I Want to Be the Boy that Warms Your Mother’s Heart.”

I didn’t always like this song, but after giving it another chance and actually paying attention to the lyrics, I think it’s one of the best on the record. It’s a mix of piano and guitar that sounds similar to the music on “This Protector,” but it’s the story that really grabs you. The lyrics describe a boy who can’t understand why his girlfriend’s mother doesn’t give him the time of day. My favorite line from the song and one that sums it up nicely is when Jack sings “We’ve been sitting in your back yard for hours/But she won’t even come out and say hi/While my mother baked a little cake for you/and even dreaded when you said goodbye.” It’s kind of a cute song that shows it’s not all wild and crazy with the band.

As I mentioned earlier, this album almost completely gets rid of the Blues sound found on just about all of the band’s albums. It can still be heard on some songs and it takes over the jam filled track “Ball and Biscuit,” but the other songs have more of a garage rock sound. You can hear it on tracks like “The Hardest Button to Button” and “Little Acorns.” But there are also classic psychedelic influences coming into play. “Hypnotize” is the perfect example of the vintage 60’s sound thanks to the hyper guitar riff. Another song with this sound is “You Have No Faith in Medicine.”

This song is utter chaos with Jack hollering and playing with his vocals over the wild riff. More of the psychedelic sound is found here. When you hear you actually picture go-go dancers wiggling around in cages with white boots. It’s a crazy to let loose to and one that needs more attention. Though all the songs are great, there is one that I find really weird and not as good as the others.

The closing track “Well It’s True that We Love One Another” doesn’t sound like any of the songs here. There’s no rock or blues; it’s just straight up country. Everything from the melody, to the guitar riff, even to the vocal style has the country sound and feel. This doesn’t make the song bad; it’s just not my style of music. If anything, it shows off the diversity of the band and how they don’t want to be placed in a neat little box. What makes the song really weird are the lyrics.

Singer Holly Golightly sings how she “loves Jack White like a little brother,” but then she questions whether or not Jack actually loves her. She even goes as far as asking Meg about the matter. To me this makes the situation even weirder considering Meg and Jack used to be married. It just sounds like an awkward moment waiting to happen. Either, it’s interesting song for the band that shows they’re not afraid experimenting with different styles.

Overall, the album gets 9.5/10. Though this record finds the band moving even further away from their Blues roots, they make up for by letting through their garage rock influences. There are also small moments where they play around with different genres of music to show off their diversity. The songs are amazing with some of their best and most well known here. All of their albums are great, but this is definitely the one they will continue to be known for.

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