The White Stripes

Playlist: Rock Duets

Sometimes a duet is the best thing in the world. Other times, it’s a disaster. But it always leaves memorable stories. There’s something about two huge musicians getting together to create music that’s thrilling and exciting. Pop music is full of countless duets, but they don’t seem as popular for rock music. They certainly exist; they’re just not as abundant as they are in pop music. So let’s look at some of the most notable and popular duets in rock music. For the purpose of this playlist, a duet is a song where both artists have an equal amount of time on the track.

“Close My Eyes Forever” – Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne

This is probably the most famous rock duet. The song, which apparently came about as an accident according to Sharon Osbourne, was the third single for Lita Ford’s self-titled debut album. With sappy lyrics and a blazing guitar solo, it’s no different from the many power ballads of the era. Ozzy’s haunting vocals do add an eerie touch to the song, but it’s still pretty cheesy. Though I love Osbourne, I never liked this song. It’s too slow for my tastes and is just corny. Then again, I’d be hard press to find one power ballad from the 80s I actually like. Still, this single stands out as one of the most notable duets in rock music.

“Love Interruption” – Jack White and Ruby Amanfu

The music world went a little nuts when Jack White announced a solo album only a year after the White Stripes ended. The debut single “Love Interruption” wasn’t what people expected. There were no roaring riffs and White screaming over screeching guitars. Instead, the song is mellow, subdued, and a bit cynical. Though White could’ve easily carried the song himself, the addition of Amanfu’s smoky vocals adds an understated sensuality to the song. Something about her voice adds a raspy, soulful nature that would’ve been missing otherwise. I actually think it’s one of the strongest tracks from Blunderbuss and serves as a reminder love isn’t always pretty.

“Dancing in the Street” – Mick Jagger and David Bowie

Two of music’s iconic artists, what could go wrong? To be fair, the cover itself isn’t that bad. There’s nothing particularly special about it, but it’s fun at least. Yet, the music video will go down in infamy. It’s unbelievably bad. Jagger exaggerates everything from his facial expressions to his seizure inducing dance moves. Bowie remains cool though it looked like he left the house in some wild pajamas. And don’t forget the scene where Jagger chugs down a soda while Bowie sings. It’s probably one of the worst videos of the 80s. Hell, even Family Guy said it was the gayest music video in history. Thinking about it, there are moments where the two singers get a little too close for comfort.

“State of Shock” – Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger shows up again for a better collaboration with Michael Jackson. Recorded for The Jackson’s album Victory, the song is a raucous and kind of spastic team up with the rocker. The song was originally meant to be a duet with Freddie Mercury for the Thriller album, but scheduling conflicts kept the two from working together. Jagger was called instead and it ended up being his biggest hit away from The Rolling Stones. It’s one of those unexpected hits from Jackson’s catalog, but it’s one of the finest examples of pop and rock colliding. Later on, Jackson said he Jagger sang off key, while Jagger called Jackson “lightweight.” Anyone else think the Freddie Mercury version would’ve been epic?

“Good Times” – INXS and Jimmy Barnes

When two talented vocalists come together, they often try to outshine each other. That’s not the case here. For their contribution to The Lost Boys soundtrack, INXS teamed up with singer/songwriter Jimmy Barnes on this cover of The Easybeats song. Michael Hutchences’ smoldering vocals pair exceptionally well with Barnes’ bluesy, rock-tinged voice. They actually work together to give listeners a thrilling experience. The two sharing vocal duties along with the high energy music supporting them, it’s everything you want a good rock rolling song to be. It has a similar good time vibe as Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Listening to Barnes’ vocals, you have to admit it’s reminiscent of rockers, like Robert Plant.

“Hunger Strike” – Temple of the Dog

Temple of the Dog started as a way for Chris Cornell and members of Pearl Jam to deal with the death of Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood. Their debut album did exceptionally well with this song being their biggest hit single. The track features Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder on vocal duties. When two of grunge’s most notable and talented vocalists get together for a song, you know it’s going to be good. And that’s exactly what you get with this powerful, emotionally driven tune. Both artists get time to share their unique vocal styles, Vedder being gruff and raspy and Cornell’s higher range. It results in a song that’s beautiful and haunting.

“Stand by Your Man” – Wendy O. Williams and Lemmy Kilmister

Ever wonder what it would sound like if two punks ripped apart the Tammy Wynette classic “Stand By your Man?” That’s what Wendy O. Williams and Lemmy Kilmister for a single in 1982. The song is almost unrecognizable with gritty, blazing guitars making a ruckus while the two scream out the lyrics over the noise. Oddly enough, it works. It’s one of those weird covers you would never expect two rock legends to even consider. They breathe new sinister life into the country classic that makes you want to head bang. O. Williams and Kilmister teamed up again for “Jailbait,” which appeared on the Plasmatics album Kommander of Kaos. Listening to these two, it’s clear they were truly one of a kind.

“I Ain’t No Nice Guy” – Motorhead and Ozzy Osbourne

When two of hard rock’s most iconic and legendary figures team up, you expect something epic beyond belief. That’s not the result of this duet featuring Lemmy Kilmister and the Prince of Darkness. Rather than getting together for a kickass track that would melt your face off, the two sing a ballad instead. It’s a slow, somber song made for radio airplay. It actually became a huge hit for Motorhead’s tenth album March or Die. It’s a decent song and features a slow burning solo from guitar hero Slash, but it won’t hit that sweet spot for most metalheads. It’s just so unexpected for the rockers. What’s even more surprising is seeing Ozzy with a five o’clock shadow in the video. Yikes.

“A Tout Le Monde” – Megadeth and Christina Scabbia

This song originally appeared on Megadeth’s sixth album Youthanasia and quickly became a staple for the band. At the time of its release, it garnered controversy for its music video. MTV banned it claiming it promoted suicide, which Dave Mustaine was quick to dismiss. The band re-recorded the song in 2007 for the album United Abominations with Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil. Aside from some slight alterations, like a faster pace, there;s not much difference aside from Scabbia singing an entire verse showing off her vocal chops. The song keeps its sentimentality intact along with its hard hitting sound and slightly aggressive mood. Many may prefer the original, but this re-recording is a great blend of old school and new school.

“Walk This Way” – Run DMC and Aerosmith

These days the world of rock and rap often combine for both awesome and questionable results. But back in the 80s, the two were seen as exclusive genres that should never cross paths. Run DMC and Aerosmith broke that barrier with this duet. When it was released in 1986 it blew everyone’s collective minds. Not only did Run DMC cover this classic rock track, they even got Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to join them. The song is still amazing to this day and remains one of the best mash-ups ever. It, of course, would go on to inspire other rock/rap collabs, such as Jay-z and Linkin Park (remember when that was a thing?)

“The One You Love to Hate” – Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson

Two heavy metal giants, both who are considered the best vocalists in the genre, team up for this roaring track. Recorded for Halford’s debut album Ressurection, the song features Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson on vocals. You’d expect to be beyond amazing and the most bad ass thing you’ve ever heard. In reality, it’s okay. It feels more like a Dickinson track since his voice overpowers everything and Halford is stuck on back up duty. It’s a pretty standard metal song with soaring vocals, blazing guitars and a lot of aggression. It’s not bad; just not very remarkable.

“Don’t Fear the Reaper” – HIM and Sanna-June Hyde

On HIM’s debut album, the band provided a haunting rendition of the Blue Oyster Cult classic. This version brings out all the darkness and grim view that’s implied in the lyrics. And frontman Ville Valo’s baritone vocals provide are a perfect match. Adding some brightness to the track is Finnish actor Sanna-June Hyde. She provided guest vocals for this track and “For You” early in her career. She’s not necessarily the best singer but her voice surprisingly well with Valo’s. There’s also something eerie about their voices. Still one of the best covers of this song.

“Under Pressure” – Queen and David Bowie

The thought of Queen and David Bowie doing a song together sounds like a dream. This amazing collaboration resulted in one of the best songs of the 80s. It’s an undeniable classic; pairing Bowie’s mellow vocals with Freddie Mercury’s dramatic bravado leads to a beautiful sonic experience. And try not to get chills during the bridge when Mercury pleads “Why can’t we give love/give love/give love?” The song became a huge hit for both artists and remains their most notable. Of course, the riff would be stolen by Vanilla Ice in the 90s, who claimed it wasn’t the same song.

Which is your favorite rock duet? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

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.

Playlist: Going Solo

After years of fighting for fame and glory in the cutthroat world of music, there comes a time where you ditch your bandmates and attempt a solo career. Some artists are so good at it, many have forgotten their origin band. Others…well, let’s just say they were back with the band in no time. This is only a handful of musicians who have gone solo. I know I’ve left a ton out, so let me know which ones in the comments along with whose your favorite solo act.

“Hollaback Girl” – Gwen Stefani

When Gwen Stefani took a break from No Doubt to do her own thing in 2004, many fans were both excited and disappointed. She spent most of the 90s establishing herself as the quirky, alternative chick who really dug ska music, but her solo material didn’t have any of those elements. With help from the Neptunes, Stefani crafted a debut album full of catchy jams you love to hate and hate to love. Since then, her solo career has been just as successful as her time with No Doubt. Hopefully, she’ll keep delivering the hits on her upcoming LP.

“This City” – Patrick Stump

Though Stump was much loved for his unintelligible vocals in Fall Out Boy, people didn’t know how to feel when he broke out from the band in 2011. Instead of the pop-punk Fall Out Boy were known for, Stump went for more of a pop and R&B infused sound that didn’t sit well with fans. Though the single “This City” did fairly well on the charts, the album didn’t meet up to expectations. Stump became so frustrated in his solo career he posted a lengthy rant on his website where he admited he wasn’t prepared for the hatred he received for his music. He went on to say “The reality is that for a certain number of people, all I’ve ever done, all I ever will do, and all I ever had the capacity to do worth a damn was a record I began recording when I was 18 years old.” Guess we shouldn’t expect a second effort from him.

“Look at Me” – Geri Halliwell

If you thought Directioners overreacted to Zayn leaving One Direction, then you don’t remember the uproar when Geri Halliwell AKA Ginger Spice left the Spice Girls in 1998. Fans were beyond upset and held a grudge against the former Spice Girl for years to come. In 1999 she launched her solo career and while she’s had some decent success it couldn’t compare to the work she did with her former group. Halliwell made headlines in 2013 when her single “Half of Me” only sold 281 copies. Ouch. I picked this song because it’s the only one I remember by her. And yes, I was mad at her for a bit too.

“Lonely No More” – Rob Thomas

Before his solo career, Thomas was known as the one guy from Matchbox Twenty. While the band did find moderate success with singles like “Bent” and “3 AM,” Thomas’ power proved to be even greater without the band. His debut …Something to Be came out in 2005 and produced the mega-hit single “Lonely No More.” It allowed Thomas to gain a whole new audience since it was more pop oriented than his alt rock roots. After another album in 2009, he threw Matchbox Twenty a bone and got them back together for the LP North in 2012. Problem is at that point people stopped caring. Thomas has another solo effort out this year.

“Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy already made a name for himself as part of the legendary Black Sabbath. But when the band kicked him out in 1979, the Prince of Darkness was left in the dust. Thanks to the help of his manager/wife Sharon Osbourne, it wasn’t long after that he launched his solo career, which is still going strong today. Now, he has songs that are just as well known and loved as those he created with Black Sabbath. He’s had plenty of classics like “Bark at the Moon” and “No More Tears,” but this remains one of his best.

“I’m Shakin'” – Jack White

Though it’s hard to forget the work he’s done with The White Stripes, Jack White has been making a name for himself as a solo artist since 2012. Without the expectations of the White Stripes or The Dead Weather or The Raconteurs, White was able to go beyond the Blues sound he loves and cherish and delve into country and folk territories. Of course he hasn’t given up on his wild and other worldly guitar solos he became known for. This was one of my favorites from Blunderbuss.

“Sexyback” – Justin Timberlake

Many boy band members have tried and failed to go solo. It’s no doubt that Justin is the most successful one of the bunch. Timberlake has a knack for making the silliest songs catchy as hell. Tracks like “TKO” and “Cabert” are nowhere near his finest material, yet you can’t help but groove to it when you hear it. His songs are catchy, fun, and definitely want to make you dance. Though he now wears many hats, including comedian, designer, and actor, the world will still go wild whenever he releases his latest jam.

“No more I Love Yous” – Annie Lennox

This sultry Brit already captivated audiences in the 80s with The Eurythmics. When the band went on hiatus in the early 90s, Lennox kept making music by herself and proved to kick ass at it. Since her 1992 solo debut, she has released four more albums all with ballads so beautiful they make you weep. Earlier this year, she stole the spotlight from Hozier at the Grammy’s with her intense rendition of “I Put a Spell On You.” This cover of the Lover Speaks hit is a classic and so chilling it trumps the original.

“I Want Your Sex” – George Michael

No one would’ve guessed the singer from Wham! in those all too revealing shorts, would end up being a sex symbol of the late 80s. Michael already had hit singles, like “Careless Whisper” during his time in the band, but when they split in 1986, he took his music in a bold, sexual direction that was seen as controversial at the time. This song caused an uproar with its sexual content and steamy music video, which seems pretty tame by today’s standards. Just shows how things have changed since the MTV days.

“Every Little Step” – Bobby Brown

The bad boy of New Edition broke out on his own with this 1989 single. Even though the video is laughable, especially when Brown sports those biker shorts, it’s hard not love this song. It has since gone down as Brown’s most notable single, even though he had other hits like “My Prerogative” and “Don’t be Cruel.” Though he’s released several LPs since then, none have been as successful as his sophomore effort.

“Never be the Same Again” – Melanie C

After the Spice Girls said goodbye, each of the members tried their hand at going solo, but Melanie C AKA Sporty Spice has been the most successful of the bunch. Her debut Northern Star came out in 1999 and featured this hit single, which has the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. She seems to be doing well on her own and released her sixth LP Stages in 2012. Spice Girl fans will be happy to know that album found her working with Baby Spice once again. Once a Spice Girl, always a Spice Girl.

“Forgot About Dre” – Dr. Dre feat. Eminem

When you think of Dr. Dre now, you think of his insanely overrated headphones that had a hand in making him the richest rapper in the genre. But back in the 90s, he helped to usher in a new era of hip-hop with the help of Eazy-E and Ice Cube in the group N.W.A. Bold, aggressive, brash, and fearless, N.W.A. became notorious and scared the shit out of parents in America. After a dispute with some of the members, Dre released his iconic solo LP The Chronic in 1992. Considered one of the best albums of all time, it featured hit singles like “Nuthin’ but a G Thang,” “Let Me Ride,” and “Fuck Wit Dre.” Though he released a follow up in 2001, fans have been waiting for The Chronic 2, which we should probably give up on at this point.

“11th Dimension” – Julian Casablancas

Julian Casablanca’s sleepy vocals were first heard with The Strokes, which took the world by force in the early 00’s. During the band’s hiatus, Casablancas ventured out on his own and released his critical hit solo album Phrazes for the Young in 2009. It seemed the singer would continue doing his own thing, until the band reformed in 2012 for the release of The Comedown Machine. Casablancas released his second solo effort Tyranny last year proving those sleepy vocals are too good to resist.

“Compulsion” – Martin Gore

Known as the primary songwriter of Depeche Mode, the sweet voiced Gore released his first solo effort in 1989 with a follow up in 2003. Though both releases are filled with cover version of songs that influenced Gore throughout the years, his soft voice along with slight touches of synth and electronic breathes new life into the songs. This track originally performed by Crow, finds Gore using a lot of the same tricks he used for DM’s music, making it irresistibly catchy. Frontman Dave Gahan also released some solo LPs, but they’re not as strong as Gore’s output.

“Into a Swan” – Siouxsie Sioux

Siouxsie Sioux won dark hearts over in the 80s with The Banshees, with their blend of goth, dark wave, new wave, and rock. After the band called in quits in 1995, Sioux took a break from music and didn’t release her solo LP, Mantaray, until 2007. A lot of the music is a departure from what the singer did earlier in her career. The songs delve into hard and even glam rock. The album was a success and she’s had fans clamoring for more ever since. In an Mojo interview from last year, Sioux mention plans for her second solo LP in 2015. Fingers crossed!

“In the Closet” – Michael Jackson

Jackson first made hearts swell as a part of the Jackson 5, who he tried to stay faithful to well into his solo career. He eventually left them behind for good and went on to gain legendary status thanks to his songs and out of this world dancing. This song from his 1991 LP Dangerous, made people wonder about the King of Pop’s sexuality even more. Though not as amazing as songs like “Billie Jean” or “Beat It,” it’s still an underrated gem from the late performer.

 

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.