Meg White

Icky Thump – The White Stripes

Release Year: 2007

Rating: 9/10

It’s been eight years since the White Stripes released what would be their final album back in 2007. And they couldn’t ask for a better way to say goodbye. Going back to their garage rock blues infused sound they left behind for Get Behind me Satan, the band rips, roars, and tears through 13 tracks that provide more of the insane riffage fans clamored for. Surprisingly, it’s also their most fun album in their discography and this comes out on most of the tracks.

The album kicks off with the wonderfully weird “Icky Thump.” Jack White takes us into this weird take of a tryst in Mexico with a cry of “Iiiee! Icky thump, who’d thunk/sittin’ drunk on a wagon to Mexico!” The music is kind of all over the place with the odd squealing keys and scratchy guitar solos bouncing around the song. You’ll notice there actually isn’t a chorus; instead the keys and guitars take its place giving it the White Stripes signature. Another thing savvy fans will notice are the references to the band’s staples like red head women and candy canes. The whole thing is full of energy and lots of fun. Things get more mellow on “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Do What You’re Told)” where Jack criticizes someone for letting other walk over them in a relationship. Even though it has this bluesy, country twang to it, it kind of sounds like a church hymn with the swelling organ. Still it’s classic White Stripes all the way.

Jack White said the connecting theme for the album is positivity and being happy. It may not be in every song, like “Martyr for My Love,” but many of them follow this thought. The most fun and upbeat track is “Rag and Bone,” which finds the duo as junkers looking for anything people don’t want. The Blues tinged song is has a jumpy rhythm that gets you moving. Between the verses, Meg and Jack provide spoken parts convincing people to give them stuff. Jack sounds like a Southern door to door salesmen, while Meg just sounds creepy as she whispers “give it to me.” Another fun track is “Conquest,” a Corky Robbins cover, that takes the classic Mexican stand-off rhythm and recreates it with a gritty guitar. The Latin flavor is kept in with the brassy horns that blare during the hook. There’s even a great part where the guitar and horns play off each other during the bridge. Even Jack’s singing is great; he sounds determined as he wails “Connnnonnnnquest!” You can tell he enjoyed recording the track, especially since he’s been wanting to cover it for 10 years.

For the most part, the album acts a return to the band’s garage rock/punk roots. Their previous effort was all about experimentation while this one has that comforting sense of familiarity. “Bone Broke” will take fans back to band’s first few LPs with the searing raw riffs, crashing chaotic music, and unchained vocals. “Little Cream Soda” is another old school throwback since it’s a re-recording of an older Stripes song. Jack completely let’s himself go on this track as he scares out scream and squeals from his guitar. Playing with the loud/quiet dynamic, the music during the verses sneaks along, fit for a spy theme. The way he lets those notes fly will leave you in awe; it’s that crazy good. “Catch Hell Blues” is very similar to tracks like “Aluminum” and “Instinct Blues” where the music does the talking. There are lyrics, but it’s the guitar playing listeners will be captivated by. You have to hear it for yourself to understand why it’ll leave your jaw on the floor.

The only time the band gets experimental here is on “Prickly Thorn, Sweetly Worn,” which is patterned after an Irish hymn. It features a weezing bag pipe along with a light guitar. The bouncing nature of the song makes it seem like some Irish jigs should be going on at the same time. It’s pretty odd for the band, how many bands do you know of that use bag pipes, but the chant of “Li de li de li oh” makes it catchy. I remember in an interview Jack said it was about exploring their Irish roots, but it’s just another tall tale he attributes to the band.

I’m Slowly Turning Into You” has always been one of my favorite tracks from the album. It’s sneering, snotty, and full of frustration as Jack sings “But your face is getting older/so put your head on my shoulder.” The verse gets more scathing as he points out how everything his lover does is annoying. Then we get that raw, sexy riff right before the chorus that makes your spine twitch. And the swelling keys emphasize the angry mood of the song. But it’s not all bad as during the second half of the song, Jack realizes it’s not so bad after all. I’ve just always loved the mood and music of this track, especially because it’s pretty playful. The album ends with the country jam “Effect and Cause,” which foreshadows the direction of Jack’s solo material. The twanging guitars, the down home raw vibe of the song makes it sound like a classic country tune complete with a bluegrass banjo. It’s not how you expect the album to end, but it provides a look at what Jack would do later on.

The album is really great, not just because the band returns to their garage rock roots. A big part of it is because the songs are so much fun and many of them are upbeat. Jack wanted the record to be about positivity and he succeeded on a number of the tracks. At the time, we didn’t know it would be the band’s last, but it’s very fitting. It shows why so many people fell in love with The White Stripes and even returns to the Blues style that made them famous. Sure, it would be great to hear from the duo again some day, but at least we were left with one of their best albums.

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Get Behind Me Satan- The White Stripes

Get_Behind_Me_SatanRelease Year: 2005

Rating: 8/10

White Stripes fans weren’t prepared for what Jack White had up his sleeve for this 2005 release. Just when we were getting used to the band’s blues and garage rock driven sound, they put out an album where it’s almost entirely absent. There are moments when you think this isn’t a White Stripes album at all, rather some strange, experimental songs put together by Jack with some of them having traces of the popular band. Even if this is true, the album still comes off very well, even if you have to set it aside and let the whole thing grow on you.

Jack White has always played around with various sounds and playing piano on the past albums, but it completely takes over here. You suspect this album won’t be like their others from the opener “Blue Orchid.” Even though there are awesome riffs, there’s something about the song that’s different. It’s a bit darker for sure and it sounds like straight up rock and roll more than anything else, but the change doesn’t seem so drastic. That is until you get to “The Nurse.”

I used to hate this song only because the music is so disjointed on the entire thing. It begins with a marimba that gives off this tropical feel at times, like something you should be hearing while sitting on a beach. After awhile a short guitar riff will violently play, but what throws you off is it always plays at different beats. It’s not steady and it’s hard to keep track of if you don’t know the song well. But after awhile it begins to grows on you; even I’ve come around to it. It’s now one of the most enjoyable White Stripes songs for me.

The sonic experiments don’t stop there. Another song that sounds like nothing else the band has ever done is “Little Ghost.” In short, it’s a backwoods country song that talks about falling in love with a ghost. Now it doesn’t seem like such a big deal because Jack has done country inspired songs both on his own and with The Raconteurs, but at the time it was the weirdest thing ever to come from the musician. This was another song I truly hated and while I still don’t listen to it, I can appreciate it a little more. There are also songs where changes are as simple as taking away key instruments. There are few songs here where it’s only Jack and a piano and they’re really quite stunning.

One of the most interesting tracks here is “White Moon,” which features mainly piano and some light drumming from Meg. But what makes it so intriguing are the lyrics that constantly refer to classic Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth. The song is rumored to be about bad past relationships and his obsession with the actress. Many also speculate that it’s actually about ex-wife Meg White. It’s not that far fetched especially when you consider the last seen in Under the Great White Northern Lights, where Jack and Meg are sitting at a piano, while this song plays. By the end, Meg has broken out into tears. No matter what it’s actually about it’s still a heartbreaking song.

The closest you’ll get to the classic Stripes sound is on “Instinct Blues” and “Red Rain.” The former song has a similar format to their older song “Aluminum:” while there are lyrics, it really shows off Jack’s guitar skills. As the title suggests, there is a hint of blues here, but it’s rock music that mainly takes over the distorted, raw riff. “Red Rain” on the other hand has zero blues influence, but is more tuned to their garage rock roots. The riff is intense and also the most brutal and aggressive thing heard on the record so far. There are more hints of their sound on songs like “The Denial Twist” and “Take Take Take,” which is another track centered on Rita Hayworth, but otherwise it’s as if they were trying to reinvent the band.

The record as a whole has this air of mystery to it; a lot of the songs are drastically different from what the band had down previously, but also a lot of the songs are difficult to figure out. Songs like “Passive Manipulation” and “Blue Orchid” have these ambiguous lyrics that make the listener sit and think about the meaning if they so choose to. The White Stripes have always been enigmatic, but they push it even further with this album. In a way it makes the entire experience more interesting because it allows the listener to apply their own meaning to the tracks. Besides, isn’t that the fun of music?

Overall, the album gets 8/10. While I don’t think it’s their best album, it’s definitely their most intriguing. This is where the band tosses away their previous blues and garage rock influences and embrace different instruments and sounds. It may take a while for the record to grow on you, but over time you appreciate it. Also, it seems that the album has aged extremely well; it just gets better over time. Its a record like this that shows why The White Stripes were and still are one of the most loved bands around.

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.

White Blood Cells- The White Stripes

Release Year: 2001

Rating: 10/10

Jack White has found immense success this year with his first solo album, but it’s the White Stripes’ third album that makes me miss the band so much. This is probably their best release. It’s full of great and memorable songs, plus there isn’t a dull moment to be found. This is the album that put the band in the spotlight and for a good reason too; it’s damn good.

There are so many great songs here that it’s hard not to talk about all of them. There’s something awesome about every track, whether it’s the killer guitar work or the somber lyrics. The album opens with one of my most favorite White Stripes songs “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.” I think what makes the song so great is the riff. It’s in your face with it’s dirty, grungy sound and it just won’t quit. It really makes the song. The lyrics are awesome too. I feel that they’re odd, yet quirky. For some reason I especially like the line “If you can hear a piano fall, you can hear me coming down the hall.” It’s an interesting way to say I know you can hear me coming.

The next song is one I was never a huge fan of. “Hotel Yorba” has a country vibe with it’s twang of the guitar and feels like a giddy good time. I don’t know why I was never a fan of the song, but the more you try to dislike the song, the more you can’t resist it. It’s just so damn catchy that you’ll eventually catch yourself singing it. It’s definitely one of those songs where you gather your friends to sing along with you. It feels like it should be sung around a campfire. After listening to it again, I realize it’s not as bad as I once thought. It’s just not something I can listen to on a regular basis.

One song that can’t be ignored is the awesome “Fell in Love with a Girl.” Clocking in at one minute, it blazes by with it’s energetic, dirty guitar riff. You get so wrapped up in the music you never realize the song is about finding another lover. It has a great punk rock vibe with how fast the song is. It’s one of the best on the album and the only time Jack White seems to let loose here. Another song that’s really great and under a minute is the stripped down “Little Room.” What makes this song so great is that it’s just Jack’s singing and Meg’s drumming. There’s no guitar at all. It’s interesting how Jack’s lyrics and the way he’s singing provides the rest of the music.

Another song that is a favorite of mine is “The Union Forever.” It begins with this slow, drawn out riff where you can envision every note and string Jack is plucking. When the drums and the rest of the music comes in the song gets this creepy vibe. The way the background music hums along reminds me of something that should be playing in a black and white horror movie. Jack adds to the feeling by sounding bitter and cynical when singing. One really great part here is when all the music stops expect for Meg’s drumsticks clacking together with Jack singing. It has this unexpected stark sound that’s really cool.

One thing that long time White Stripes fans may notice about the album is it’s lacking in Blues sound and influence. This is one thing the band is known for and it’s a surprise that they shy away from it here. The music is more guitar and piano focused, making the sound more along the lines of garage and classic rock. Some songs like “We’re Going to Be Friends” have a folk music style. But no matter how hard the band tries, some Blues seems to slip into the songs. Maybe it’s just me, but “Expecting” seems to have a slight hint of the genre. Maybe it’s the hard guitar riff or the negative connotation of the song, but it definitely reminds me of the music they love so much.

The songs on the album deal with the topics of love, paranoia, heartache, and betrayal. Because of this the album seems to have more of a somber sound than their past ones. Yes, “Hotel Yorba” and “Fell in Love with a Girl” are very upbeat, but they’re about the only ones that are. Songs like “I Can’t Wait” and “I’m Finding it Harder to Be a Gentleman Everyday” seem to have unhappy topics, but they also have a darker sound. The riffs are just slower and more somber than before, which is another thing that is different about the music. The guitar riffs are not as wild and unchained as they have been in the past. Only one of the songs makes you want to jump around the room, the rest of them are on the slow side of things. And even though some of the songs may have more positive topics, the lyrics and the mood of the song still give off a bad feeling. “We’re going to be Friends” actually reminds me of that one friend you make in grammar school and you never spend any time apart. You hope to be friends forever, but it doesn’t last.

Overall, the album gets 10/10. It’s the band’s best work. It has awesome songs with kick ass guitar work as always. It may shy away from the blues sound Jack and Meg are well known for, but it makes up for it with the guitar and piano taking over. There are some songs that aren’t as good as the others, but even these are pretty great. This is the album the band will be remembered for years and years later. It’s still upsetting that we’ve lost one of the best rock bands in recent history, but hopefully Jack White will continue excellent music in the future.

Don’t forget to check out the De Stijl review while you’re here!

The White Stripes- The White Stripes

Release year: 1999

Rating: 9/10

Last year we lost one of the greatest garage rock/blues bands of our time: The White Stripes. So what better way to remember them than by reviewing the album that started it all, The White Stripes? This is probably one of the greatest debut albums of all time. Everything on here is just about perfect: the songs are great, there’s never a dull point in the album where it takes a turn for the worse or where there’s a lull, and do I have to mention the guitar riffs? Yes? Well fine. The guitar is fucking amazing. The White Stripes wouldn’t hit the mainstream until six years after this album’s release, but it’s been re-released so current White Stripes fans can enjoy their first album.

This album is filled with seventeen blues and rock influenced songs. Now usually this many songs would hurt an album, especially a debut one, because songs will start sounding the same and sometimes they feel like album filler, but that feeling is never present on this album. Though there are an abundance of tracks here the album doesn’t drag on and never gets boring. This could be due to the fact that most of the songs are one minute in length, but it’s also a result of Jack White’s musicianship.

All of the songs are awesome. There’s never a dull moment in the album since the songs are filled with great riffs and wild singing. The songs are also catchy even though some of them sound so simple with White often repeating the same lyrics throughout the whole track. One of the best songs on the album is “Do.” It starts off with a slow melodic riff before White starts singing passionately. The pace of the song really makes it stand out because it’s one of the few slow tracks on the album. The best parts are when White is singing with no music accompanying him. This makes the song feel more intimate.
What keeps the album fresh and interesting is that every song has its own sound, which shows all the different music that influences the band. For example, some songs like “The Big Three Killed my Baby” sound straight up rock and roll, but a track like “Suzy Lee” has a more blues influence behind it. This also shows how the band can work in any musical setting and still rock the house. And even though the album doesn’t have one static sound, it still manages to not be disjointed. There’s never a point in the album when a song comes on that feels out of place. It all flows extremely well.

As mentioned before, the guitar riffs here are amazing. Some of them sound so simple, but they will still blow your mind. Some of them will leave you in awe wondering how Jack White is wrenching those notes from his guitar. White’s guitar has a rough, dirty, raw sound which matches perfectly with the raw feeling found on the album due to the quality of the sound production. And it’s hard to ignore the blues influence in his riffs. His attitude always comes out through his guitar playing and his singing. Some of the best riffs are found on “Jimmy the Exploder,” “Cannon,” and the great jumping riff found on “Screwdriver.”

White’s vocals will also impressive you. A lot of times he sounds uninhibited and wild, hooting and hollering through the song (“Jimmy the Exploder”). But there are other times where White sings softly, as if he’s letting you into his mind. His vocals are best on display on “Wasting My Time.” He will go back and forth between crooning softly to yelling excessively. Everything in this song exudes aggressiveness and the feeling of being fed up. His attitude is strong and clear on this track.

While Meg White is not the best drummer or even a decent drummer, there are a few times where her little effort makes a song stand out more. Her simple thudding on the drums in the opening track “Jimmy the Exploder” sounds like she’s drumming in a drunken stupor, which really grabs your attention. Hey drumming may not be anything to brag about, but there are moments when it really shines through.

Overall, this album gets 9/10. It’s a strong first record where every song is filled with Jack White’s genius and manages never to get boring or run on too long. The blues and rock inspired guitar playing will leave you in awe. All the songs are brilliant. Everything from the minimal drumming to the ambitious singing makes this album just about perfect. It’s an album that’s now considered a classic among White Stripes fans.

What’s your favorite song from this album? Was your mind blown when you first hear Jack White’s mind blowing riffs? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.