The White Stripes - Elephant

After signing to XL Recordings for a rumoured £1 million after "White Blood Cells" you wouldn't expect anything less from the White Stripes than to record their follow up "Elephant" in 19 days in a Toe Rag, a tiny recording studio in Clapham. Location differences apart it's the White Stripes we all know and love with a few subtle differences on tracks such as the forthcoming single "Seven Nation Army" which appears to feature a bass guitar (naturally it's an electric guitar processed through a Octave shifter so they're sticking hard and fact to the rules of the Stripe).

If you know the White Stripes you're recognize "Elephant" as the next stage in the evolution. Forever steeped in the past, both literally and in their own material, it's hard to imagine the White Stripes changing to such an extent. Any additional players or musicians would lack the simplicity and stripped down closeness of the band and just one change in the parameters would mean it simply wouldn't be the White Stripes. This albums cover version is Bacharach and David's "I Don't Know What To With Myself" which sees Jack slipping nicely into the shoes of Dusty Springfield. It's this ambiguity between Meg and Jack's relationship and indeed with each cover version seemingly fixated with feminine icons Jack's sexuality which makes the White Stripes such an exciting proposition. There's so much about the band you think you know and yet so much which is shrouded in mystery.

Meg takes lead vocals on the beautiful ballad "In The Cold Cold Night" while Jack picks a trance like riff. If the White Stripes weren't so steeped in their ways you can imagine that in 20 years it would be sampled Moby style by some Blues obsessed dance artist. "You've Got Her In Your Pocket" is so simplistic you can imagine Jack writing it in his sleep but at the same time it's beauty is in it's simplicity. It's these stripped back ballads that are the highlights on "Elephant" because on more uptempo moments they simply don't hit the mark as well as on previous albums. "Little Acorn" starts off with a sampled monologue with random piano tinkling before Jack turns into Marc Bolan dripping with sexuality. "There's No Home For You Here" takes the riff from "Dead Leaves And Dirty Ground" and cranks everything up to 11 with multi-tracked vocals.

"Elephant", as with "White Blood Cells" and "De Stijl", is a flawed but extremely human record. It's just simply not one of those albums you're going to listen to from beginning to end and if you're listening to it the proper way (i.e. on vinyl) it's the sort of album to listen to in short bursts. It's hard to see where the White Stripes will go next, but when you least expect it they'll unleash a collection of songs which can compete with "You're Pretty Good Looking For A Girl" or "Seven Nation Army".

Alex McCann

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