The White Stripes – Elephant

These days, when an artist is heaped with praise, hype, and rave reviews, the result is usually quite predictable: the artist, unable to live up to near-impossible expectations, implodes before being crushed by a media backlash. Occasionally, however, a miracle occurs. The White Stripes, despite a constant stream of hype and publicity that’s followed them since last year’s White Blood Cells, have managed to release a follow-up album that not only meets expectations, it blows them away.
Elephant is good. Really good. It is catchy, fun, and addictive. There is no greater compliment for an album than to have it hog your CD player for days on end while piles of newer discs stack up beside the stereo, unplayed in their shrink wrap.
The first four seconds of the disc are as great an album intro as you’ll find, anywhere. The bass line for “Seven Nation Army” will surely sell more copies of Elephant than any brother-sister/husband-wife publicity scandal could ever hope to. Thankfully, the rest of the album is equally as solid. Jack rocks out, 1960s blues style, on tracks like “Ball and a Biscuit” and “Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine.” Both tracks are enticing sex and drug glorifications that seem, strangely, almost quaint in a psychedelic devil-worshipping sort of way.
Jack deftly handles a cover of Burt Bacharach’s “I Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” and makes it fit as comfortably on the album as any other track. Meg White takes lead vocals for “In the Cold, Cold, Night,” and her stark, crisp singing is a wonderful shock to the system after the previous feedback-ridden tracks. Elephant ends in a quirky mass of ambiguous love confessions with “Well it’s True That We Love One Another,” an acoustic ballad that features alternating conversational vocals between Jack, Meg, and guest Holly Golightly.
Sure, the fact that the entire album was performed and recorded on 1960s-era equipment (“No computers were used during the writing, recording, mixing or mastering of this record,” says the insert) wins major cool points. So does the continuing use of the red and white theme. The coolness factor becomes irrelevant, however, when the music is this damn good. Elephant is a classic rockin’ good time. Crank the bass and enjoy.