Icky Thump

A squelching squeal and ominous drums announce this back to basics 6th album from the Detroit duo. The title track has nestled in at number twenty six on Billboard, becoming their highest-charting single in the US to date. Post Raconteurs, I was all just glad The White Stripes still existed, because let’s face it, compared to Raconteurs they truly are twice the band, with half the band-members and not just literally. The lead single and title track is a strange beast, far less commercial than a ‘Seven Nation Army’ or a ‘My Doorbell’. The electronic squeal leads into Jack White singing about immigration before and after launching into yet another memorable riff, yet the song has plenty of stops and starts and unfriendly sounds. The White Stripes manage to fail to mellow, which is of course a fantastic thing. ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ sounds far more like a single and also like one of the finest things the band have ever done. It’s taking glamor rock and seventies heavy rock and processing it all in a blender. It sounds like a song that could be covered by Dolly Parton in obviously a completely different style to the Jack guitar and the Meg drums and still coming out smiling. Yeah, it’s that good, proper songwriting indeed. The third song up reminds me both of Led Zeppelin and of Dylan circa 1965. Two great things to be reminded of, although neither influence anything new in White Stripes circles, of course. We don’t need no innovation, we just need those primal drums and Jack White spraying everywhere with his guitar plugged in. Well, he also gets in some acoustic lines during ‘300 Mph Torrential Outpour Blues’ and it contrasts well adding further depth to the composition.

For those of you that like the even more raw and primal sound of the first couple of White Stripes albums, ‘Bone Broke’ has it in spades. You wanted Jack to get an Irish folk influence? The excellent ‘Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn’ has it down before merging into the Meg intoned ‘St Andrew’ which sounds like The Velvet Underground in a mash up with a bagpipe player. Yeah, those highland hills. ‘Little Cream Soda’ plugs us firmly back into the blues, ‘Rag And Bone’ has Jack and Meg goofing around whilst an addictive riff plays out behind them. Only the final three songs in fact pass by without providing a kind of highlight, everything else is such high quality. Had Jack and Meg ended the album with ‘I’m Slowly Turning Into You’ I could be calling this the best ever White Stripes album. As it is, I had hope for a mere excellent one will certainly suffice, only to be saddened about White Stripes disbanded on Feb 2, 2011. Sigh!!

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