The White Stripes - Elephant
Published in 2003
I have some spectacular friends. One of the few friends that I got out of high school, that wretched hive of scum and villainy, is a man named Brian. If you have looked through the archives, you will see him threatening hungerstrikes for me not having done The Beatles yet, you will see him with some incredibly well written comments, and you will generally see him everywhere. So, I present to you, the first guest album project, by Brian G. Bow down before him, ye mighty, and despair.
Jack White is an unassuming man whose presence does not impose upon itself. It is not until the pick hits the steel that you feel the room flex and can feel the music in your chest in the reverse fashion of how the mute can talk with a microphone pressed to their throats. Meg White follows suit in the duo, being the milk to Jacks thrashing cheerios. No one enjoying cereal ever mentions the milk unless it is past its prime, and this milk may have a bit of a twang to it, but fuck it, it has 2 weeks left before it makes you pee out your backside. When you think White Stripes, I immediately think of a few things. The first is the unfortunate fact that they broke up in February; if that will stick or not we will see, but I don’t see them getting back together. Jack carries on with the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather - both of which rock in their own right.
Seven nation army comes on with the bass line that could have been written by a 6th grader. This song is always found in a lot of authors 'top 50 rock songs of all time' list; and I agree with that. If nothing else, this song got the Stripes a ton of play and expanded their base more than any other single. I was glad to hear the band known for their garage rock sound getting play on the radio - I sensed this as a small step in the improvement of a steadily declining radio scene.
Black math is exactly how it sounds. If the kings of yesterday would have relied on composite boxes of wood topped with metal strings rather than the black magic of royal lore - this is the jam you would flex to slay the fucking dragon. This is another simple hard hitting song that I am sure was first played in a basement or garage somewhere.
Just when you are verging on the side of face melting status, they slow it down without being dreary. 'I just don’t know what to do with myself', 'in the cold cold night', 'I want to be the boy to warm your mothers heart' and 'You’ve got her in your pocket' show a departure from the beginning of the album by telling a bit more of a story and also giving Meg a chance to step up to the mic. It works to keep this album very sessionable in that you can listen to it start to finish over and over and not grow tired of it. With that being said, you wouldn’t find any of those 4 songs on my Stripes mix tape.
Please note that this may look like a separate paragraph, but that is only because I couldn’t find a button on my computer to make this block of text a completely different level of being. This artifact of text is not on the same three dimensions as the rest of this piece. This is where the album gets fucking gritty; it drinks tiger blood and pisses grungy bluesy excellence. If you were to play 'Ball and Biscuit' through a 50s tube amp you are hearing the air vibrate in the method in which God intended and that only Jack White could be the epi-center of. As good as the album cut is, I cannot urge you more to find a video of the live performance. The improvise riffs and the dirty grit of it come through in a way that the polished studio cut couldn’t show. Seven Nation Army is very similar in this regard - I urge you to find a set where they mashed together 'Death Letter' with 'Seven Nation Army' on youtube. The transition between the two is one of those moments where you see what a live show should be.
Winding down the album, we have some solid songs which are led by the popular single 'Hardest Button to Button'. Multiple singles off Elephant made for some serious air time on the better rock stations. IF you didn’t know the Stripes before Elephant, you knew them now. The only song that I can’t explain on this entire album is the final track. The skit with Holly Golightly makes no sense but it shows the range that the Stripes Have. Although this is never the end of the Stripes for me - whenever the hiss comes on that indicated the end of the record it always leads to one of two foregone conclusions - dropping that fat needle back on 'Ball and Biscuit' or cuing up White Blood Cells or Icky Thump.
"Right now you could care less about me, but soon enough you will care by the time I'm done"
Fucking sick, am I right? I have the coolest friends.
As for my opinions on things, I am pretty sure that Brian completely nailed this album. It's driving, well crafted, and just a beautiful album. It's one of those albums that every person needs to experience, because it just is that cool. The drums are pounding, and the guitar is solid as fuck.
Of course, as they have just broken up, we must expect that this is going to be one of those albums that just lives on as a ghost. One of those band that everyone will say they saw in their prime, and one of those bands that those of us who didn't will wish we had. They play some spectacular rock, and they are just great.
It's personal story time. My dad was in a punk band in Detroit, Michigan (the setting for Robocop) in the late 70's. They were called the Denizens, and I have to say, they actually rock. If they had come out twenty years later, they would have been hailed as a great classic punk act, but because they were ahead of classic punk, they never quite got that far. They were seriously good, and I remember singing their songs as a kid.
In the early 2000's my dad's band got back together. In Detroit. They were going to play one show, and so we took a vacation up to the brown/tannest place on Earth, and went to a place called the Bohemian house. To say that this concert took place in a bad part of town was an understatement, and since it is in Detroit, that understatement is an understatement. The house was really cool though, with a bunch of really nice people.
My dad was the closing band. A group called the Fondas came out and rocked out a bit, played some quality music. The whole event was for this guy Jim (I think)'s birthday, and so he got dressed up in his rock star best. He had on khakis and a pink button up shirt, no tie. He got warmed up with the band a tiny bit, and then they started playing.
They killed. It was a room full of the most incredibly diverse group of people I have ever seen, My dad's generation on down to my sister, who is three years younger than me, and the place was fucking into it in a way that I have rarely seen at a concert. The whole place was into the concert, they were doing some really cool stuff, and a huge group of Detroit musicians were in the room.
I couldn't take my eyes off this one person, who was standing next to a central pillar in the room with a large, dreaded black guy. I knew that I knew her from somewhere, but I couldn't remember where, until I really thought about it, and I had seen her on TV.
Meg White was at my dad's concert. That is some fucking insane shit that I couldn't make up. Seriously. It was just one of those things that I still to this day, kick myself for not going up to her and just saying something small, about how she was influential and how cool it was for her to be at my dad's concert. Writing it out now, I'm glad that I just treated her like a person, and didn't bother her. I really enjoyed the concert, I enjoyed the hell out of my dad going up and blowing people away, and I thought that he was a pretty cool dad for doing it.
So, that was my brush with an incredibly famous, interesting, and seemingly very nice person. If I was wrong, and she wasn't there, I feel like an idiot, but I'm not wrong.
Anyway, thanks to Brian, I hope that you will write more projects, and whoever out there has an album that they want to knock out of the park like Brian did, I will always provide space for you to vent your feelings, heart and soul.
"Danger in Disneyland"
PS. Five Phil Give!
PPS. Want to read a little more about my dad's band? Go here.