ElephantArtist: The White Stripes
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Reviews:Most garage rockers snarl as if they're about to bust into your livingroom and drag your daughter away by the hair. Jack White sounds like he'dlike to hop off his bike and help your mom with the groceries. He practicallysays as much on "I Want to Be With the Boy...," a song about howsad he is that his girlfriend's mother ignores him. ("I'm inclinedto go and finish high school/ Just to make her notice that I'm around,"he moons.) The White Stripes may be at the forefront of the new garage movementthat sprang from Detroit and unexpectedly revitalized rock radio in the pastyear or so, but the duo is atypically adorable. Jack and Meg White's matchingcandy-cane outfits don't do much to inspire fear, after all.
In fact, the tougher Jack and Meg act, the cuter they come across. Partly that'sdue to White's voice-he sings with the sort of full-throated, slightlycracked vulnerability (think Paul McCartney before he drifted off to the Landof Gumdrop Fantasy) that makes him sound more emotionally imperiled the angrierhe gets. When he viciously gives a former lover the unequivocal boot on "There'sNo Room for You Here," he sounds as if he has to summon all his resourcesto take so definitive a stand. You could say the same for Meg's drumming-theflat insistence of her pulse, often just a fraction of a second behind the beat,sounds as if it requires every bit of her concentration to drive Jack'sguitar forward.
The overall sound here is heavier than on the band's breakthrough, WhiteBlood Cells, increasing their definite but somehow inexplicable similarityto Led Zeppelin. It also edgesa step closer to the blues at points, with mixedresults-the seven minutes and more of "Ball and Biscuit" seemsdesigned to satisfy blues hounds who think they can't play that Jack canchunk-a-chunk and that Meg can keep a beat. (It's always sad when genuineoriginals aspire to hackdom.) But more often Jack's playing adds to themusic-his guitar solos wobble in as many unpredictable directions as KurtCobain's. There are some keyboards, Meg gets to sing a song, and they stretchout with a psychedelic chorale on "There's No Home for You Here."In short, they add to their basic sound without diluting it (or accepting theneed for a full-time bass player). Like the Nuggets bands they recall withoutever aping, they draw upon blues moves, Beatle-y tunefulness, and R&B gritto make something new. And the first single, "Seven Nation Army,"is genuinely ominous-nothing cute about it all. C'mon, mom-whatis there not to love?